Millions of Meals Served
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Pennsylvania in mid-March, The Salvation Army Eastern Pennsylvania/Delaware & Western Pennsylvania divisions sounded the alarm, knowing they couldn’t feed the growing number of Pennsylvanians coming to their doors without help. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s emergency Feeding Task Force and Operation BBQ Relief, a non-profit disaster relief organization, answered the call. The win-win-win collaboration, initially a fourweek deal, was extended to eight weeks due to increasing needs. The 3-way partnership resulted in millions of meals served to those needing it most in the Keystone State.
“It was an answer to prayers for us, especially as more people were laid off,” shared Lt. Col. Larry Ashcraft, Divisional Commander, The Salvation Army Eastern Pennsylvania/Delaware Division. “As the unemployment numbers soared, we saw unprecedented numbers of people coming to our local corps seeking food. Operation BBQ Relief provided freshly prepared and pre-packaged meals that we were able to pass on to individuals, seniors and families who really needed it, and The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania footed the bill. We’re grateful for the 3-way partnership because it helped us bring hope and relief to communities across the state when they really needed it most.”
The collaboration enabled some Pennsylvania restaurants to re-employ laid off workers who utilized restaurant kitchens to prepare the meals The Salvation Army distributed. In addition to paying for the food, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided refrigeration/freezer trucks to transport the meals to warehouses in Philadelphia, Wilkes-Barre, Williamsport, Lebanon, Pittsburgh and Altoona each week and remain onsite to store the frozen food until it was distributed.
Since Operation BBQ Relief and The Salvation Army have partnered together during this health crisis and in numerous prior disaster relief efforts around the world, on Wednesday, June 17 at 9 am, Operation BBQ Relief will announce that it is serving its 7 millionth meal since the organization began in 2011. The Salvation Army has distributed about one-third of those meals over the years. Tomorrow’s announcement will come at a short press conference right at the start of food distribution at The Salvation Army’s Reading Citadel location at 301 S. 5th Street, Reading, PA. Immediately following the announcement, Operation BBQ Relief will distribute the milestone meal to a Reading-area resident in need of food.
“Operation BBQ Relief is honored to celebrate our 7 millionth meal with The Salvation Army. We have worked together with The Salvation Army for years ensuring those in need of a hot meal received it, no matter the circumstances. We are thrilled to celebrate this milestone with our friends at The Salvation Army as we continue to address the fight on hunger,” said Stan Hays, CEO, Operation BBQ Relief.
Also, at the press conference, The Salvation Army will announce that it has served more than 8 million meals across Pennsylvania since the pandemic began in mid-March, with over 2 million of those meals coming from Operation BBQ Relief.
“In the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen a slight decline in the needs but we’re still seeing a lot of people who need help,” said Major Darren Mudge, Commanding Officer, The Salvation Army Reading Citadel. “We’re distributing food to about 485 families a week now. So far, we’ve served 23,000 people in Berks County since mid-March when this whole crisis began. The meals that Operation BBQ Relief facilitates makes a huge difference because area people who would have gone hungry, didn’t. We are so grateful.”