Hot Meals USA, a new local nonprofit aimed at providing meals in disaster situations, has signed a memorandum of agreement to work with the American Red Cross.
Richard Cochran, owner of the Kearney and Grand Island Dickey’s Barbecue Pit restaurants, helped create the nonprofit.
The premise of Hot Meals USA is to provide equipment and chefs to disaster areas to provide meals for victims and first responders. The goal for the first year is to fund a 56-foot semi-trailer with equipment, including its own generator, two smokers, two 12-foot grills, a walk-in cooler, two ovens and other equipment needed to serve more than 10,000 meals a day. ServSafe certified chefs and cooks would run the equipment to ensure food safety. The trailers are intended to be housed in Central Nebraska.
Cochran said the agreement with the American Red Cross will benefit both organizations. Hot Meals USA started talks with the Red Cross a while ago, since the concept of Hot Meals USA will need collaboration with other disaster relief organizations.
“Our goal was always to supplement what was already out there and see if we could make it better,” he said.
The agreement, Cochran said, states that the organizations will work together on training and prepping for natural disasters. When the Red Cross is called and food is needed, it will call Hot Meals USA. The Red Cross will pay for fuel, food and help get the Hot Meals USA trucks lined up to help feed people.
“For us, that’s phenomenal,” he said, adding that it relieves much of the financial stress. “That’s a tremendous burden for us that’s now lifted.”
Cochran said the Red Cross benefits from Hot Meals USA by having the equipment and certified chefs available to help. Hot Meals USA offers the Red Cross the ability to feed a lot of people in a short amount of time, as well as the ability to have a varied menu. The equipment will lend itself to cooking a variety of food, including raw meat.
“In today’s world, they just don’t have that,” he said.
Cochran said Hot Meals USA is also working toward an agreement with the Salvation Army. If something happens and Hot Meals USA is needed, four different groups could potentially call them for help: the Red Cross, Salvation Army, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“This Red Cross thing is huge because we never intended to bring enough people along with us to serve food,” he said, noting that the Red Cross will have the volunteer numbers to get the food to people.
Cochran said Hot Meals USA is about $40,000 away from having enough funds to get the first trailer into Kearney. Once the first trailer is prepped, it will be ready to help in disaster situations.