BBQ Brings Comfort to Those Affected by Disasters

Credit: SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY NETWORK. Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021.

When a tornado hit Joplin, Mo. in 2011, a group of competitive pit masters came together from nine different states to help feed families affected by the disaster and first responders. Shortly afterward, Operation BBQ Relief was formed to help with future disasters. Today, 10 years later, Operation BBQ Relief has gone coast to coast providing more than 9.5 million meals.

“Ultimately, I believe BBQ is comfort food. It doesn’t matter what your culture or heritage is, every single human celebrates around BBQ and their version of BBQ. It doesn’t matter if it’s a seafood boil down in Louisiana, it doesn’t matter if it’s a lobster boil in the Northeast, it doesn’t matter if it’s a whole hog coming out of South Carolina,” said David Marks, Head of Business Development at Operation BBQ Relief.

“All cultures, [BBQ] speaks to everyone at the heart. I think the more important piece is that BBQ reminds people of good times,” said Marks.

Not only does BBQ warm up the body and soul, but it is also ideal for producing large amounts of food.

“We cook these larger cuts of meat, we put love into it when we put it in the smoker, we put love into it when we take it out of the smoker and in between that time we can prepare other products, other meals, and we can, frankly, get some rest as well while we let the equipment do the cooking,” said Marks. “We’re really efficient and effective in our equipment and Cambro is part of that efficiency.” 

Operation BBQ Relief uses a variety of Cambro insulated transport units to accomplish their efforts. When they’re serving bulk meals, they prefer the top loading Cam GoBox® EPP180 because it can hold a whopping 200 servings of pulled pork. If they’re serving individually packed meals, they like to use the front loading Cam GoBox EPP300.

Operation BBQ Relief in Hammond, LA to provide meals to families and first responders. Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021.

“The use of products from Cambro has always been around since Day 1 of using top loaders,” said Paul Peterson, Head of Corporate Relations & Procurement. “We just got through purchasing our second trailer load of EPP300’s.

“As we’re moving this bulk product, the weight is not in the equipment, the weight is in the food. Paul and I are big guys…but we have plenty of smaller people. [The Cambro GoBoxes] make a difference and when you’re moving that much product, it makes a huge difference,” said Marks.

A few months ago, when Hurricane Ida hit Hammond, La., Operation BBQ Relief rushed to the area to provide food and support.

“Thank you for really coming to our rescue in Hammond because we needed a very quick turnaround. Cambro didn’t have all the product that we needed in one location, [but] gathered it very quickly and it was delivered to site, which a week before was a parking lot,” said Peterson.

“We couldn’t do it without the [Cambro] product,” said Marks.

Many of those who work with Operation BBQ Relief are former competition pit masters who want to make a difference in the lives of others by providing a hot meal and information about how to recover. “We give them a little bit of hope,” said Marks. “We start to give them not only nutritional value but some direction in which way they should go. They now know, okay, I’m not alone,” said Marks.  


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