How Nestle And Other Food Brands Are Helping Ukraine

Before Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, it might be safe to say that few people outside of Europe understood how important the latter country was to global food supplies. Per The Economist, Russia and Ukraine are the first and fifth largest wheat exporters in the world, accounting for 29% of the world's wheat sales. They produce as much as 12% of the food calories consumed globally and are in the top five of the world's cereal exporters. 

But all that changed overnight, particularly since, as The Wall Street Journal reports, Russia took aim at Ukraine's food supply centers from storage facilities and warehouses. As a result, The Wall Street Journal quotes Poland's government as estimating that Ukraine needs nearly 10,000 tons of food daily in order to feed its people.

Some global food conglomerates have stepped up to the plate to try and do what they can to ease food shortages. One of the most visible groups helping to distribute food has been World Central Kitchen (WCK), which hit the ground running as soon as the invasion started, and has expanded operations to Southern Poland, Romania, Moldova, and Hungary. Within Ukraine itself, the group is working with local chefs to provide hot meals to refugees. 

Food companies have been sending aid into Ukraine

While the World Central Kitchen's Meals for Ukraine has Twitter impressed, it's important to know one of its biggest backers is Smithfield Foods, which has contributed an astounding $1 million to WCK, Save the Children, and the Global Red Cross Network. Smithfield has also partnered with Mercy Chefs for access to facilities to keep and distribute shelf-stable food, water, baby formula, and other basic supplies. Aside from that, Smithfield says it has delivered $1 million in in-kind donations to the war-torn area.

Another food company, Cuisine Solutions, has been ferrying vacuum-packed meals into Ukraine from France, where its aid convoys have been blocked and looted by the Russians, per The Wall Street Journal. "It's incredible that the breadbasket of Europe needs food, but it does," Cuisine Solutions Stanislas Vilgrain, who has spearheaded efforts to move food supplies from big cities like Lviv to areas where it is needed. Ukraine's deputy foreign minister, Taraks Kachka, says the need is great in places like Mariupol and the Donbas region, which has seen heavy fighting.

Nestlé has been supplying food aid to the front lines

Another company that has come to the fore with its COVID-19 playbook, and which has been repurposed for use in Ukraine, per The Wall Street Journal, is Nestlé, which came under heavy criticism during the early days of the Russian invasion over its decision not to cease operating there. It took almost a month before Nestlé released a statement saying it would focus on "essential food, such as infant food and medical/hospital nutrition — not on making a profit." Nestlé went on to state that "This approach is in line with our purpose and values. It upholds the principle of ensuring the basic right to food."

It appears Nestlé has also been upholding that right to food in Ukraine, where it has donated bottled water, baby food, instant noodles, and coffee thus far. And while The Wall Street Journal says Nestlé had originally opted to close all of its factories in Ukraine, it has since changed tactics and turned sections of its facilities into bomb shelters, and centers that provide humanitarian relief. In Kharkiv, Nestlé workers are being protected by armed guards so they can enter Nestlé facilities to pack instant noodles for local residents. It has also used trucks to bring supplies into Ukraine from other parts of Europe to distribute to parts of the country in greatest need.