Serving Hope and Inspiration To Tornado Survivors

As members of the foodservice industry were in Chicago for the National Restaurant Association's annual trade show this past May, a tornado touched down in Moore, Okla., creating a 17-mile path of destruction so devastating that it seemed like something that came out of a horror movie. Like so many people around the country, and in the foodservice industry in particular, our company felt moved to help.

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Thaddeus Smith, Communication Manager and Executive Chef, SternoCandleLampWhile TV viewers typically see images of police officers, paramedics and government agencies responding to disaster, they seldom get a glimpse of those who feed disaster victims and emergency crews. Volunteers from groups like Mercy Chefs and the American Culinary Federation (ACF) cook hot meals for affected citizens, playing a critical role in the rebuilding process. We were able to support Moore's recovery efforts by contributing time and product to these organizations.

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A kitchen and feeding center was set up in Moore's Southgate Baptist Church. For an extended period of time this facility would feed thousands of people a day, including Moore residents who had lost their homes and the many other people who came to the area to help start the rebuilding process. By talking with people we knew in these organizations, we found out specifically what products they needed to accomplish this and the training they required, and set out to provide both.

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As one might imagine, there were many elements that we could not control. For example, the area was knocked off the grid, meaning there would be no electricity for quite some time. This made it difficult to hold food at safe temperatures. Luckily, a broadline distributor donated a refrigerated truck to house the perishable items. And to prepare each meal, the volunteer chefs that came from all over the country climbed a ladder to see what donated food items were inside the truck and then began planning a hot and nutritious meal. Talk about a process that can test one's creativity!

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Spending three days working side by side with these chefs to set up the feeding center was an experience that was both inspiring and humbling. The attention to detail the chefs exhibited was amazing. They mopped the floors before meal times and made sure the food presentation was very professional and dignified. It was great to be part of such a cooperative and collaborative environment.

The fact that we could provide three hot meals a day in that environment was meaningful. The feeding center became a place where people could reconnect over a meal and help restore the sense of community that the tornado tried to blow away. There was a real spirit of hopefulness and a sense that everyone was doing their part to get this community back on its feet. It was pretty inspiring on a human level because everything was so basic.

When a tornado strikes it is pretty easy to wonder if one company can do something to make a difference. Well, by leveraging our relationship with the ACF we were able to play a small role in getting the rebuilding process off the ground and we were glad to have been of some help and your company can do the same with its network of contacts.

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