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Food pros continue effort to support Oklahoma storm recovery work

The local food service industry has been a consistent source of support during the recovery of storm-torn Oklahoma communities.
by Dave Cathey Modified: May 29, 2013 at 2:14 pm •  Published: May 29, 2013

Just because tornado footage isn't on perpetual loop on the alphabet-soup cable news channels doesn't mean the recovery effort is over. Not by a long shot.

The folks cleaning up and taking data in the disaster zone will need support for the foreseeable future. Giving money to the American Red Cross is the simplest, most efficient way to help, but local food service professionals also need a boost as they continue to provide secondary support to recovery workers.

Take for example the Oklahoma Wing of the Civil Air Patrol. This group seeks to photograph every damaged home site affected by the recent tornadoes, on a shoestring budget.

“We have $5,000 or 30 days,” said volunteer officer James Beauchamp. “Whichever runs out first.”

So, when local chefs and food truck operators found out the Civil Air Patrol had set up a command post in the Norman National Guard Armory, they came to the aid of the volunteer team responsible for collecting invaluable data that will only be available a short time.

They collect data starting with aerial photo tracks taken for FEMA and the Oklahoma Division of Emergency Management. The photos, which determine the damage's depth and width, are next added to Google Earth images from Moore and Oklahoma City to recreate where homes and streets were before all hell broke loose and create a grid to guide air patrol pilots. Their ground mission is to use GPS trackers to locate housing sites within 30 feet of their location and walk street by street and house by house to photograph each site to collect data that will not only paint a picture of this weather event but be used to inform future research.

“Having food donated to us extends our mission,” said Kacy Harsha, who is principal of Sequoyah Middle School when she's not volunteering with the Oklahoma Civil Air Patrol.

Military rations are available to the team, but good food helps keep spirits up as they grind through this process.

The CAP's needs were met by serendipity when volunteer Jinny Chen found out about their needs. Chen began helping coordinate food trucks to visit the affected area on behalf of Oklahoma's Fraternal Order of Police.

“We were bringing in trucks the first few days to help feed the people working in there,” she said. “When that group didn't need help anymore, we started asking around and headed down to the Norman Armory.”

Setting up at the armory, Chen started working the phones with local mobile kitchen operators and chefs to provide food and water for the recovery workers.

On the day I visited, Justin Price of Pizza 23 was serving relief workers.

“We've been down here every day,” he said. “We're just doing what has to be done. Helping the best way we know how.”

“The response has been great,” Chen said. “To keep it going, the trucks need support.”

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by Dave Cathey
Food Editor
The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene.
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