As more hurricanes, wildfires, tornados, and floods are occurring, the American Red Cross needs Kitchen Site Managers for deployment. Feeding is a critical component of the Mass Care Team who provide shelter and food for those evacuated during a disaster or need a place to go after a disaster.
Recently, the Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) Region hosted the first National Kitchen Site Management Boot Camp at West Chester University.. This “hands on” training gives volunteers the experience they need to qualify for Kitchen Site Manager. Twenty-one Red Cross volunteers from around the country arrived for this training event. They participated under the guidance of instructors, asking questions, and in this simulation, learning from mistakes while experiencing the workflow of a field kitchen.
Jeff Banks, Senior Red Cross Disaster Program Manager, directing the operation, explained “this program is focused on developing Kitchen Site Managers.” Banks intends to bring it to other sites around the country. Laurynn Myers, National Program Manager, was observing the kitchen and workflow. Instructors Nanci Banninger and Brian Gerber were closely watching the activity, evaluating trainees.
The Southern Baptist Convention, a major feeding partner with the Red Cross brought their portable kitchen to cook meals. SEPA Logistics delivered supplies and equipment. Steve Thomas, Logistics Lead, explained, “Logistics are the Roadies for the Red Cross. First in Last Out!” The group assembled at the parking lot for orientation and assignments. Meals ready to go and ERVs (Emergency Response Vehicles) delivering them by 11 a.m. was the objective. Volunteers were organized and Johan Reyes was designated Kitchen Site Manager.
A field kitchen is a complex operation with all steps of the workflow happening simultaneously. The Southern Baptists were busy preparing barbeque chicken, green beans, rice and fruit. Volunteers were sanitizing cambros (insulated container for keeping food hot or cold), placing cooked food containers into the cambros, labeling them, then loading on the ERVs. ERVs with drivers were lined up, waiting for direction to the loading area by yard dog Andy Aerenson.
The kitchen was running smoothly until Gary Mills, manager for the Southern Baptist Kitchen, determined meal preparation had slowed by 30 minutes. Additional hands were needed. Red Cross volunteers jumped in helping with preparation. Soon, the food preparation operation was back on track and it was announced the first ERV was delivering meals at 11 a.m.! The boot camp experience was a success!
Twenty-one new Kitchen Site Managers from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Rhode Island, Texas, and Alabama are fully trained and ready to deploy to any disaster where a field kitchen is needed.
For volunteer Ana Gallagher, this was a great opportunity. She enthusiastically said, “feeding is my passion, and this is the right place to learn!”
- by Judith Weeks