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This Former DC CEO Is Now Saving Pets in Ukraine

Nate Mook, who used to run World Central Kitchen, has a new mission.

Displaced cats in Izium, Ukraine. Photograph courtesy of courtesy of Nate Mook.
Photograph courtesy of courtesy of Nate Mook.

Nate Mook spent five years as CEO of José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen, leading its effort to feed people in disaster zones around the globe. One of those places was Ukraine—“a huge mission for the team,” he says, “and our first time navigating the complexities of working in a war zone.” In August, Mook (shown at right) stepped down from that role, but his work in Ukraine has continued. He’s now using his knowledge and experience with WCK to tackle another lifesaving endeavor: feeding domestic animals left homeless by the Russian invasion.

The war has uprooted the lives of millions of Ukrainians and caused immeasurable pain and destruction. But it has also had a devastating effect on pets. “These are not wild, feral animals,” says Mook, talking on the phone from Lviv. “These were people’s pets, and they are starving.” He’s also a key member of the pet-relief organization Hachiko, helping it expand its feeding operations in newly liberated communities and frontline towns. “There are animals running around everywhere,” he says.

Mook and Hachiko have begun constructing makeshift PVC feeding tubes as a way to provide a safe and steady stream of kibble to thousands of dogs and cats wandering the war-torn streets. Traumatized by the shelling and the deafening sounds of conflict, a lot of these animals “are too scared to approach the food if humans are around,” says Mook. “This is why the feeder stations work so well, allowing them to access the food on their own, without force.” So far, his team has set up more than 30 stations, and many more are planned.

Hachiko is also delivering bags of animal food to local residents. “With pet stores closed in these towns and villages, kibble and other supplies are in big demand,” says Mook.

There’s no end to the war in sight, so Mook plans to remain in Ukraine for now. “I know the important role pets play for emotional support,” he says. “The pets are so connected culturally to the Ukrainian people and to this war.”

In addition to his work with Hachiko, Mook was recently named president of the Ukraine Foundation, an initiative launched by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation (headed by Warren’s son). In that role, he’s been working with first lady Olena Zelenska to create a system for providing healthier meals in Ukraine’s school system. But as rewarding as all of this has been, there’s one downside, he says: “It’s been hard being away so long from my rescued cat, Jinx, back in DC.”

This article appears in the February 2023 issue of Washingtonian.