It takes a team to feed people during a disaster 

It takes a team to feed people affected by disastersThe Red Cross has served over 1.5 million meals and snacks since the Hurricane Florence disaster began. That’s a lot of food! How does the Red Cross manage to produce that many breakfasts, lunches and dinners?

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief does the procurement and preparation of the meals, and Red Cross distributes them. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief owns many large mobile commercial kitchens where they prepare and serve their mobile and fixed meals. Their cooks use set, predetermined menus that take regional preferences into consideration.

Mobile meals are delivered throughout the community on large Red Cross trucks called Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs). There are also large trucks, that can hold up to 700 meals, to deliver meals to fixed locations at kitchen sites or in evacuation shelters.

ERVs go out and look for people affected by the disaster, canvassing neighborhoods and working with the police and city managers to ascertain how many meals need to be prepared and served. ERVs will go out to a fixed site in a Walmart parking lot or post office and open their windows and serve from there. In each area, six trucks go out on designated routes and another three do reconnaissance. There is a huge map that determines where to go and keeps everyone organized.

One challenge is that the elderly can’t reach the ERV trucks. They’re homebound and can’t get to the feeding sites. The ERVs will make a detour to find them. “We don’t leave until we’re satisfied that all clients are thoroughly happy to see Red Cross smiles and the hope we bring,” said Charles Thomas, ERV driver.

Red Cross ERV drivers love their jobs. The hours are long but they get to interact with the community at a deep level by getting to know their clients. They’re trained in safe food handling and defensive driving. It really is a big team effort. “This is my first deployment, but everyone has readily accepted my leadership, readily accepted the assignment, and readily accepted going out to serve the public,” Charles said.

At the end of each day each area reports the number of meals, where they’re distributed, the number of staff required and other metrics. This information is shared at the operational level and is used for fund raising, operations and determining when to consolidate or wind down relief efforts.

You can help people affected by Hurricane Florence by visiting, calling 1-800 RED CROSS or texting the word FLORENCE to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Story by Beth Bernhardt/American Red Cross


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