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Red Cross gains new mobile kitchen for disaster response

Date: 12/19/2011

Dec. 21, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD — Rick Lee, the executive director of the American Red Cross Pioneer Valley Chapter, said the new mobile kitchen would have come in handy during the June 1 tornado response.

Red Cross officials introduced the new vehicle at a press conference at Court Square on Dec. 14. The van is equipped with kitchen facilities large enough to provide 600 servings per meal.

Lee explained the primary use for such a vehicle would be to service victims of a disaster and the emergency workers. He added the first concern for first responders is hydration followed by snacks and then meals, if the duration of the response is long enough.

“It’s not just a matter of courtesy,” he said. “It’s about health and safety.”

Lee added that the local Red Cross has never had such a vehicle before and that the arrangement for the acquisition has been a long time coming.

The mobile kitchen cost $136,000 and was underwritten as part of the grant for the Springfield Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS). The Springfield MMRS is a federal program within the Department of Homeland Security designed to help local communities prepare and respond to disasters.

Robert Hassett, the city’s director of Emergency Preparedness said, “We wanted to ensure we had a vehicle that was easy to maintain, cost effective and readily available for use. One week after delivery and before the markings and Red Cross logo was affixed on the vehicle, the mobile kitchen was deployed for Winter Storm Alexander at the end of October. The vehicle remains in continuous use for the Pioneer Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross and operated out of their Springfield office.”

Hassett added, “It has been a dream of ours to put this into service.”

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said, “It’s more than a feeding vehicle, it’s a vehicle of hope.”

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