From press reports
There is debate over who actually first said “an army marches on its stomach.” Some say it was Fredrick the Great, others say it was Napoleon Bonaparte. What we do know is that food is critical to morale. And while good food may not solve a first responder’s problems, bad food certainly only adds to those problems.
The DPS cook team is a group of unsung heroes who respond when the agency responds to long-term disasters or incidents. When hurricane Isaac hit the coast in 2012, the cook team provided three meals a day in a driving rain storm, the likes haven’t been seen before or since. More recently, the team was dispatched to Louisville after an F-4 tornado knifed through the community.
Jim Armstrong, Johnny Gentry, John Myers and Mike Griffin spent more than a week planning and preparing more than 400 meals a day to state, county and city law enforcement officers and others who were away from home assisting in the recovery in Winston County. In all, the cook team prepared and served about 2,000 meals.
“After several hours of helping people who are experiencing the worst times of their lives, it is good these men and women to have a place where they can rest and eat a hot meal,” team chief Jim Armstrong said. “It also gives them a chance to interact and get to know people from other agencies who they would have otherwise never seen.”
In Louisville, the cook team got helping hands from other groups and organizations that helped them in their mission. Area church members donated paper goods, plumbers, electricians, gas company technicians and the list goes on. Officials of Tyson Foods had a tractor-trailer truck loaded with chicken delivered for the team to cook and the management of a local grocery store also provided goods for the team. Local businessman Henry “Bubba” Hudspeth provided the space and utilities for the dining hall.
“I don’t know how they’ve done it, working as many hours per day as they do,” Hudspeth said. “There have been a slew of folks in and out of here over the past week. We are grateful for their hard work and service.”
The days started at 4 a.m. and did not end until 10:30 p.m. Not only does the team prepare and serve the meals, there is also clean-up and sanitization of the cooking equipment and eating areas.
“The last thing we need in this situation is for someone or several people to get sick. Food safety is very important to us.” Armstrong added.
Then there is planning for the next meals. What to get and how much to get.
“Menu is the toughest part, to figure out what is the next meal,” Armstrong said. “We are always trying to keep it different so it doesn’t get repetitive.”
The local hospital in Louisville was hit hard by the tornado to the degree that a mobile hospital had to be moved into the area to treat patients. The cook team provided 80 meals per day to the medical team that had come in to help from as far away as North Carolina.
“Before these guys started bringing us food, we had to scour around for something to eat,” Mississippi Health Department employee Millie Smith said. “We think it’s wonderful, the meals are hot and balanced with vegetables. And we know it is safe because of the controls they have while preparing the meals.”