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A Firsthand Lesson about Disaster Services


Just like magic, the food inside the box starts steaming when Red Cross worker Devone Chezem rips open the package.

Students at Cooper Elementary School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, issue a collective gasp of surprise.

Then it is tasting time.

Chezem spoons samples of the ready to eat meals onto plates. Kids gleefully hold up placards announcing if the food is tasty (a smiling face) or not (a frowning face).

As she serves the food Chezem talks about how the Red Cross provides meals and snacks, a place to sleep, and other assistance to help people affected by home fires and storms get back on their feet.

She also tells how important it is for every family to prepare for a possible disaster by making a plan, building a kit and being informed. Chezem unpacks a typical disaster kit, showing its contents: radio, flashlight, breathing mask, duct tape, blanket and more.

“Serving ready to eat meals is a great way to give kids an overview of the Red Cross,” Chezem, community education coordinator at the Tulsa Area Chapter, says. “When we leave, the students know what the Red Cross does.”

Each Taste Test Challenge is slightly different, as Red Cross volunteers, principals, teachers and parents with various experiences get involved.

On Veteran’s Day, for example, students learned that both the Red Cross and the military rely on shelf-stable meals when kitchens are not available. The father of one teacher was a World War II veteran, and one of the Red Cross volunteers served in Viet Nam. The two talked to the class about rations and military service in these two time frames in history.

The Red Cross Taste Test Challenge saves the best for last. For dessert, there is hot chocolate served from the Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle, and a tour of this specially equipped van the Red Cross uses to deliver meals and supplies.