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Mercy Chefs reacts to deaths of World Central Kitchen workers

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Portsmouth-based non-profit Mercy Chefs is reviewing its security protocol after the deaths of the World Central Kitchen workers in Gaza.

World Central Kitchen is saving lives with food but paying a price in blood

Seven aid workers were killed as they were delivering food to Palestinians.

Mercy Chefs founder Gary LeBlanc said they’re grieving with the families of those who lost their lives. He said they’ve been on sites with World Central Kitchen before. He said safety of their employees and volunteers is paramount.

“We believe amazing things happen over a shared meal, and we know to do that during a situation of loss, of conflict, of suffering, of starvation,” LeBlanc said. “[That] is what we are called to do.”

LeBlanc said the thought of losing one of their people is just beyond imagination for their organization.

He said after seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen were killed, they’re going back and reviewing protocol and looking at how they protect their employees and volunteers overseas.

“It should be paramount in everyone’s minds to take care of your people,” LeBlanc said, “but if you are working in a war zone, you are working in a conflict, it’s innately dangerous to be there.”

Mercy Chefs has had people working with them who have been injured while serving. LeBlanc said they take every precaution that they can to avoid harm to their people.

“It’s devastating to the team,” LeBlanc said. “It creates a pause, it creates a greater concern for safety, and in some ways, though, it galvanizes your intent to continue to go.”

Mercy Chefs went to Israel at the beginning of the war and set up a kitchen to serve people there. They also hired a couple full time chefs and trained employees and volunteers on how to cook meals for mass quantities of people.

LeBlanc said there isn’t an opportunity for them to safely serve in Gaza right now, but if an opportunity presented itself that they could do so safely they’d be the first to step in.

“Innocents should never go hungry or face starvation,” LeBlanc said, “and there are innocent people there in Israel and in Gaza, and we are going to do everything we can to get to those people.”

Leblanc said they always want to go to the center of the need when they serve, and often times, it can be dangerous.

He said it takes really special, dedicated people to make their operation run and many of them feel called to go, regardless of where it may be.

For more information on their current missions, click here.

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