A grandmother, her daughter, and her three grandkids—one of them a baby—pulled up in a Honda Civic outside a disaster relief center at a church in Moore, Okla.
A tornado had blasted their home to scrap lumber as they fled in their car. Hungry, they came for donations of food. But they hesitated to enter the church, where volunteers were serving a buffet breakfast heated over flaming cans of Sterno fuel.
“They did not want to come into the building, they were so humbled,” said Chef Lynn Krause, who is disaster relief chair for the American Culinary Federation. “We’re like, ‘No, no, no, you must come in. This is for you. This is why we’re here.'”
The moment highlights a little-known aspect of disaster relief. When a tornado cuts a 17-mile-long swath through Oklahoma, when wildfires hit Colorado, when hurricanes thresh through Louisiana, TV viewers are used to images of cops, paramedics, and government agencies responding.
Seldom seen are those who feed disaster victims and emergency crews. Volunteers from groups like Mercy Chefs and the American Culinary Federation cook hot meals for affected citizens—many of whom have lost everything, from homes to family members. And those chefs are partnering with SternoCandleLamp.