PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Mercy Chefs has served over 225,000 meals since mid-March in response to the coronavirus pandemic across the country and a natural disaster in Tennessee.
Mercy Chefs is a Portsmouth-based disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization that serves professionally prepared, restaurant-quality meals to victims and first responders.
These recent weeks match the highest level of need the nonprofit has seen since the organization’s founding in 2006, stretching over a much longer time period. Typically, the organization responds to disasters where need is extremely high for a week or two and then decreases as recovery begins. Right now, the need only continues to increase.
“This is one of the greatest times of need we’ve seen since founding in 2006,” said Gary LeBlanc, founder of Mercy Chefs. “We’re seeing desperate situations in desperate locations, pointed needs that aren’t being met otherwise. The pace continues to pick up, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing.”
A lot of the meals have been served through 18 coronavirus crisis response distribution locations that organizations have set up around the country, where Mercy Chefs is working with food distributors and volunteers to provide meal service in areas ranging from Dallas, Texas to the island of Maui.
Mercy Chefs is organizing food delivery and sending along recipes, strategies and protocols to teams of volunteers, who then package the meals for distribution in their communities.
Thousands of meals have been served each week out of Mercy Chefs’ community kitchen in its hometown of Portsmouth, where the organization is partnering with the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore and other community partners to get meals to school children, the elderly and first responders. Numerous volunteers from Volunteer Hampton Roads have been supporting the effort.
Amid its coronavirus response, Mercy Chefs deployed to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and served over 40,000 meals out of Venue Church to the local community after a tornado devastated the area Easter weekend.
In all its current service operations, Mercy Chefs is taking additional safety precautions and putting measures in place to allow for social distancing.