Diaspora

Virginia-based nonprofit delivers nearly 20M chef-created meals to communities affected by natural disasters – Fox News

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Chef Gary LeBlanc and his team at Mercy Chefs have dedicated their lives to feeding survivors, volunteers and first responders after a natural disaster strikes. 
For 20 years, LeBlanc had spent countless days working in high-end resorts around the nation. But when Katrina slammed his hometown of New Orleans in 2005, everything changed. 
Mercy Chefs helps to feed survivors, first responders and volunteers after a natural disaster strikes.  (Mercy Chefs)
He felt it was necessary to help after seeing people he knew stranded on bridges waiting to get rescued. However, during his volunteering, LeBlanc was shocked by the food being served to people in need. 
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“There were people working very hard and doing the very best, but I didn’t see sanitation or food safety,” LeBlanc told Fox News. “I didn’t see professionalism, I didn’t see passion. I didn’t see love.” 
He tried to connect his friends in the food industry with nonprofits so people in disaster zones could get access to better food. He quickly realized, though, that many of the organizations didn’t want to get involved. 
They said it was too hard. It would take too much money,” LeBlanc recalled. “A couple of them even said, ‘We raised plenty of money doing bad food. Why would we want to do good food?'”
Mercy Chefs was developed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. (Mercy Chefs)
They told him he was “on a fool’s errand.” However, LeBlanc didn’t see it that way. Instead, he developed his own faith-based nonprofit, Mercy Chefs, to take on the task. 
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For the last 16 years, LeBlanc and his team at Mercy Chefs have traveled to more than 150 disaster zones in 25 states and nine countries. Within that time, the organization, which is based out of Portsmouth, Virginia, has served upward of 20 million meals through mobile and community kitchens. 
The refrigerated trailers are situated around the nation, so teams of professional chefs can “respond very rapidly to a call for assistance,” he said. 
There are mobile trailers in Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, California, Georgia and Virginia that have the ability to serve up anywhere from 2,500 to 15,000 freshly cooked meals every day. 
For the last 16 years, chef Gary LeBlanc and his team at Mercy Chefs have traveled to more than 150 disaster zones in 25 states and nine countries. (Mercy Chefs)
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Although the meals are all chef-prepared, the organization also relies on as many 80 local volunteers every day to assist the team. 
Mercy Chefs also has community kitchens in Portsmouth and Nashville that are used to help “like-minded organizations to further their mission by providing food service in underserved communities across the country.” 
Mercy Chefs has refrigerated trailers situated around the nation, so teams of professional chefs can "respond very rapidly to a call for assistance."  (Mercy Chefs)
Most recently, the organization set up shop at a middle school in Kentucky as part of its long-term recovery efforts to support residents after tornadoes ripped through the state in December. Since then, the team has served over 43,000 meals to shelters in counties that are housing victims. 
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To this day, LeBlanc says his team continues to do what they do best: “prepare just beautiful food and very high quantities.” 
Mercy Chefs, based out of Portsmouth, Virginia, has served upward of 20 million meals through mobile and community kitchens. (Mercy Chefs)
Despite the organization’s resounding success, LeBlanc doesn’t take any of the credit. 
“This is bigger than me and this is better than me,” he said. “And I couldn’t have imagined this 15 years ago. This is really this is an incredible thing … it’s really taking on a life of its own.” 
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This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2022 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. Quotes displayed in real-time or delayed by at least 15 minutes. Market data provided by Factset. Powered and implemented by FactSet Digital Solutions. Legal Statement. Mutual Fund and ETF data provided by Refinitiv Lipper.

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