“We spell love F-O-O-D,” says Wayne Herrington with a broad grin. Herrington is a volunteer with Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Disaster Relief, a long-time Red Cross partner that helps coordinate emergency feeding efforts in the aftermath of powerful storms like Hurricane Irma.
In partnership with the Red Cross, SBC Disaster Relief teams establish “field kitchens” in accessible locations in impacted areas to support large-scale feeding operations. Each kitchen site is capable of producing tens of thousands of hot and hearty meals every day to be delivered and served by hundreds of Red Cross volunteers in emergency response vehicles (ERVs).
A Mississippi-based team of SBC Disaster Relief, supported by 25 of its own volunteers, drove through the night to set up in Tampa. It’s a “pop up” operation, but don’t be misled by that description -- the outdoor kitchen has full service cooking and cleaning areas, six tractor trailers of food and supplies, forklifts to move supplies, an office trailer and even a laundry trailer.
SBC volunteer Gene Johnson, who wears a blue hat designating him as the site supervisor, proudly describes the hot and hearty meals produced onsite like chicken and dumplings, beef stew, chili, sloppy joes and other comfort food – always served with a vegetable and fruit. On its peak day, the Tampa kitchen prepared 14,000 meals (7,000 lunches and 7,000 dinners) delivered to communities across Central Florida that sustained storm damage, flooding or extended power outages.
Since Hurricane Irma made landfall, the Red Cross and partner agencies like SBC Disaster Relief have served more than 1.5 million meals and snacks across six states.
Photos by Jessica Piffero, American Red Cross of Central California