The Virginia-based disaster relief and humanitarian aid group Mercy Chefs reached a magnificent milestone this month, serving its 10 millionth meal.
The nonprofit, founded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, has served professionally prepared, restaurant-quality meals to victims and first responders in the wake of emergencies in 27 states and 10 countries, responding to more than 134 disasters.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, the nonprofit has dished out 7 million meals with the help of 10,000 community volunteers.
They recently deployed to Dallas, Texas, where a severe cold weather event left millions without electricity, water, or food—and began serving meals yesterday.
“When our friends at Gateway Church called to ask for our help, we immediately said ‘yes,’” said the group on their website.
“We’ve now transported our commercial-grade resources, including industrial power generators and water filtration systems, to serve the residents of the Dallas/Fort Worth area as they recover from this vicious winter storm.”
Founder Gary LeBlanc was spurred to action by what he witnessed while volunteering in his hometown of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. “The devastation was so intense and widespread. I saw first-hand the incredible difference a hot meal could make.”
But with 35 years in the hospitality industry he was disturbed by the quality of food being served.
“I became inspired to the point of distraction by the idea of serving high-quality food in a disaster zone. Little did I know how far that distraction would lead… and Mercy Chefs now has three mobile kitchens and two refrigerated trailers.”
“To hit this milestone–10 million meals–is simply remarkable,” said LeBlanc. “This past year has been devastating for so many people, and we feel blessed to have been able to play a small role in bringing people comfort through food. We could not have gotten here without our incredible staff, volunteers, and donors answering the call to serve others.”
The group uses coronavirus response distribution locations it has set up around the country, where Mercy Chefs works with food distributors and volunteers to supplement the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program with more meals.
Mercy Chefs also has served free food to hospital workers in recent months who are on the front lines of the pandemic throughout Hampton Roads, Virginia, and Panama City, Florida.
In addition to COVID-19 relief, Mercy Chefs deployed to places in 2020 following natural disasters, including Hurricanes Hanna and Laura, the derecho in Iowa, and the recent tornado in Alabama. Mercy Chefs repeatedly has returned to Panama City to serve those still affected by Hurricane Michael.