In the aftermath of devastating hurricane damage, a non-profit specializing in hunger relief was ready to stage its largest deployment ever and feed close to a million people – even though multiple logistical hurdles like flooded roadways, blocked bridges and a larger-than-anticipated need for supplies stood in its way.
Hurricane Ian made landfall in western Florida on September 28, 2022. With winds just shy of a Category 5 hurricane, it left behind 144 fatalities, more than 3 million people without power, and an estimated $109.5 billion in damages.
Operation BBQ Relief was quick to act, deploying to Port Charlotte, FL, on September 29 to provide hot meals to those whose homes were destroyed or without power. But in order to support this monumental undertaking – which became the organization’s largest and longest deployment to date – it quickly discovered that it would require far more supplies than it ordinarily used, including many that were scattered across the United States.
Operation BBQ Relief reached out to ALAN (which had also already mobilized for this disaster) to see if we could find the necessary transportation donors to help support this effort. And thanks to our network, the answer was yes.
For the next month, ALAN helped coordinate the donated transportation of more than 50,000 pounds of bread, rice, corn, vegetables, and frozen meals as well as an additional 16,000 pounds of aluminum serving pans from five different states, covering more than 5,000 miles to ensure that supplies reached Operation BBQ Relief’s mass feeding operations in time. Stepping up to help with this monumental task were the Global Cold Chain Alliance, RLS Logistics, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Cowan Systems and one anonymous donor. As a result, Operation BBQ Relief was able to serve 865,603 meals over 38 days.
“We can’t stop hurricanes from forming, but we can be ready to save as many lives as possible when they make landfall,” said ALAN Executive Director Kathy Fulton. “Our work with Operation BBQ Relief really showed how important the logistics community’s involvement with relief efforts can be.”
In many cases, this would be where the story (happily) ends.
However, for ALAN and Operation BBQ Relief, it has proven to be just the start.
A few months after completing its West Florida mass feeding effort, Operation BBQ Relief contacted ALAN with another urgent need – finding enough frozen warehouse space to store six truckloads of donated frozen pork (enough food to feed more than 500,000 future disaster survivors). ALAN had 48 hours to locate the space. But thanks to the Global Cold Chain Alliance, which reached out to its membership with ALAN’s request, and to United States Cold Storage, which stepped up to donate the necessary frozen storage, we were able to do it in two.
It was the quick turnaround of the year. Just as important, it was just the latest in what we hope will be a long line of successful compassionate collaborations between our two organizations. Because when it comes to improving disaster response, good logistics is often the secret sauce. And whether we’re mobilizing for relief efforts, assisting with deployments, or prepping for future disasters, ALAN is always ready to “cue” up the supply chain help that’s needed.
“In the world of disaster relief, logistics are everything, and since 2022 ALAN has been the key to our success. Their expertise and dedication is unparalleled, and we’re proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with them, ready to serve and support those in need when the next disaster strikes,” said Heather Williams, Operation BBQ Relief’s Director of Communications.