Lucas Wilcox delivers across borders through Altruist Relief Kitchen
In 2011, after volunteering with numerous humanitarian relief groups, Lucas Wilcox of Homer bought several tents and a school bus with the idea of using the tents as shelters and kitchens and the bus to travel and store supplies.
Altruist Relief Kitchen or ARK, provides food, water, shelter and sanitation to disaster relief sites. ARKs 2000-square foot tents can quickly become field kitchens where volunteers can cook 50-gallons of food every hour - using customized collapsible wood stoves. And, they can produce clean drinking water from any local water source.
After Hurricane Harvey, ARK traveled to Houston, Texas and spent six weeks making and serving 10,000 free hot meals to the lowest income communities. In 2016, they provided food, water and other emergency services in Baker, Louisiana after a major flooding event and then set up a large-scale kitchen at Standing Rock in the Sioux Nation bordering North Dakota.
For the past several years, ARK has been on the U.S. side of the Mexican border at Tijuana. Founder Lucas Wilcox says that at any given time, there are a dozen people in the field kitchen cooking meals and transporting food.
“We’re bringing them to low income communities to bring as much food as can be eaten to some of the sanctuaries that some of the refugees have ended up at. Refugees coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador fleeing either gang violence or the kind of instability that’s making it impossible to grow food,” said Wilcox.
Almost everything in the kitchen is custom built from cheap or recycled materials, from the giant folding tables and shelves, bicycle-wheel carts, the dish station, and the walk-in-refrigerator built into a school bus, to the modular 2000-square foot tents themselves.
Everything in the kitchen in made to collapse down very small so it can be moved across location or across country,” Wilcox said.
By using recycled materials, ARK provides basic necessities significantly cheaper than major disaster relief organizations. And, by posting photos of every donation and every receipt that goes through their organization, along with videos and spreadsheets describing how the money is used, they maintain transparency.
Having recently redesigned the kitchen to maximum efficiency, Wilcox is excited that the kitchen can now be duplicated by other organizations and set up in other places.
“In completing this final version of the kitchen,' said Wilcox,"I went thorough all the steps of the design and manufacturing and connection necessary to duplicate this entire kitchen. Even thought it’s the first completed version of itself it’s also just moments away of being able to be duplicated and set up in other places.”
Wilcox is hosting a community presentations to talk about Altruist Relief Kitchen, including ways community members can help, from donating funds to help offset expenses to traveling to the border with Wilcox and crew.
“…people that can come help cook and even people in Homer and Alaska that can make phone calls, Another important need is finding individuals who have been working with NGO’s that can advise and work on a long-term basis," said Wilcox.
Learn more at Kachemak Bay Campus on Saturday, March 7th at 6pm. You can also visit the website, altruistrelief.org.