“Your heart goes out to the families,” said Salvation Army Major Leona O’Bryant, who helped organize the canteen’s deployment.
O’Bryant said the organization’s mobile canteen will be stationed in Tuscaloosa. The city was nearly flattened when a mile-wide twister sliced through the city on Wednesday, killing more than 30 people.
Meanwhile, Florida Power & Light Co. crews arrived in the Birmingham, Ala., area late Thursday night, after droving all day, said FPL spokesman Neil Nissan. About 200 workers, including some from South Florida, were dispatched to damaged areas Friday morning.
The Salvation Army canteen, complete with grills, ovens and a six-burner stove, will serve as a hub in a central point of the disaster area, O’Bryant said. Other, smaller mobile kitchens will pick up food prepared in the canteen and then distribute meals to surrounding communities.
With 7,000 pounds of food and supplies onboard, the three Salvation Army workers who will operate the disaster relief vehicle are prepared to serve 2,500 meals a day, O’Bryant said. She said the fully equipped kitchen will allow them to prepare a wide range of options.
“You name it, we can cook it. I’ve even had them serve alligators from these before,” she said.
The canteen will remain in the Tuscaloosa area for at least 14 days, being restocked by Salvation Army relief teams. If assistance is still needed after two weeks, another team will be rotated in to staff the mobile canteen.
Typically, three workers will prepare meals for 18 hours a day and sleep on cots inside the canteen during their stay.
With family members in Georgia and Tennessee, O’Bryant said she is emotionally involved in the relief efforts. She said along with providing nourishment to the tornado victims, she hopes the workers also will provide a sense of hope to many who have been left hopeless.
“They don’t just need food, they need comfort,” she said. “That’s the nice thing about this.”