Feeding a Space City Recovery

Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas, on August 25, dropping as much as 50 inches of rain in some locations. The deluge of rain led to widespread flooding, displaced countless people, and left many stranded. First responders and even regular folks with boats worked around the clock to rescue about 13,000 people. Once they got to safety, tens of thousands of citizens and first responders were left needing food that hadn’t been contaminated by floodwaters or left unrefrigerated for hours when the power went out.

Feeding the Masses

As you might expect, feeding all those people spread around a flooded city in multiple shelters is no easy task to coordinate, but that didn’t slow down the service industry in Houston. Foodservice and hospitality workers created the Houston Service Industry for Harvey Relief Facebook group, where those who had time, money, space, or food to donate could work together to make meals for those who needed it. Restaurants like Reef that were unable to serve customers instead opened their commercial kitchen space to area chefs, who showed up with donated goods to cook huge amounts of food.

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When the Facebook group was overrun with requests and offers, I Have Food I Need Food was created. The foodservice industry’s digital equivalent of, “Have a penny, leave a penny; Need a penny, take a penny,” the site allows those who need food to list the number, type, and recipients of meals, as well as when and where it is needed. Those who have food, either prepared or unprepared, can list their offerings on the site, and are then connected with people in need. The simple concept has been invaluable in coordinating food deliveries throughout the Houston area.

Some chefs didn’t even wait for the hurricane to move on before beginning preparation: While trapped by the storm, a team of bakers at El Bolillo, a Mexican bakery famous for preparing the titular bolillo roll, got to work, using 4,200 pounds of flour over the two days of the storm to bake bread they handed out as soon as they could leave the store. Since then, more employees have joined the effort, making loaves that have been donated to nearby shelters, nursing homes, and churches.

Fundraising for the Future

While local chefs seem to have the short-term need for food handled, the damage caused by flooding will take years to fully recover from. Restaurants in the area and around the country have responded quickly by organizing fundraisers to help with the Houston area’s long-term recovery.

Texas-based pizza chain Cane Rosso raffled off a year of pizza, sold a $1,000 bottle of ranch dressing, and held a fundraiser, resulting in a total donation of $40,000 to the Houston Food Bank. King’s Biergarten in Houston suburb Pearland hosted a fundraiser on September 4, collecting needed items and donating 100 percent of proceeds from the event to those affected by the storm.

QSR Magazine is keeping a running list of restaurants helping out, but here are a few of those.

  • Perry’s Steakhouse: The chain is offering a three-course meal for $49.95. $5 of each meal purchase will be donated to J.J. Watt’s Harvey Relief Fund. The Houston Texans defensive end’s effort has netted more than $27 million, far outstripping its original $200,000 goal, thanks in part to a $5 million gift from the owner of the Texas-based H-E-B supermarket chain.
  • Hooters: Diners at Hooters will have the option of rounding up their checks or making donations, which will be matched by Hooters up to $100,000. Additionally, Hooters will donate $1 for every order made through the company’s mobile app up to $50,000. All funds will be donated to the American Red Cross and both programs will run through the end of September. The total raised will also be matched by the Hooters Community Endowment Fund.
  • Arby’s: All US Beef Corp.-owned Arby’s restaurants (356 locations in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington) will donate 10 percent of brisket sandwich sales September 4-10 to the American Red Cross.
  • Buffalo Wild Wings: Guests at participating company-owned locations will have the option of adding a donation to their checks though September 17, which will then be matched by the chain to double the contribution up to a total of $100,000. The donations will support the American Red Cross.
  • Jersey Mike’s: September 11-17, Jersey Mike’s will donate $1 for each turkey breast and provolone sub sold at participating locations to the Houston and Corpus Christi food banks. Additionally, the chain will hand out cards offering a free sub in exchange for a $2 donation.
  • Menchie’s: 10 percent of all sales at participating stores on September 9 will be donated to the American Red Cross.
Courtney Barkley
Courtney Barkley

Courtney Barkley has lived in nearly as many southeastern states as most Americans have probably visited, settling in East Tennessee in early 2013. She and her husband Thomas were married during ShadoCon 2012 – an anime, gaming, and comics convention – in a ceremony that featured a reading about dinosaurs in love from a friend dressed as Doctor Who. She spends her free time chasing her brilliant and imaginative son Nathan, hanging out with friends, binge-watching shows, playing video games, and keeping up with the characters of the Marvel Universe. And, any chance she gets, she sneaks off to Florida to visit friends and the happiest place on earth – Disney World.