It's been a year since Joplin, Missouri faced the worst tornado in US history since record keeping began in 1950. The EF-5 tornado took so much from them; their homes, cars, livelihood... basically everything. So much devastation, as far as the eye could see. Homes, businesses and the saddest of all... 161* lives were lost and thousands were homeless Sunday May 22, 2011 when a tornado ripped through the heart of town. It took the top two floors of a solidly built hospital, it took schools and nursing homes and shopping centers. It took homes and trees and front yards where kids used to play. Joplin was a beautiful small town, Home Sweet Home to 50,000 people. Joplin was a great place to raise kids and buy a home and grow old. In only a few minutes their world was turned upside down.
Within hours, Tyson Foods sent teams of volunteers with grills, food and emergency supplies. For decades now they have responded to disasters by doing what they do best: feed people. The folks at Tyson open their hearts and their wallets to communities just like Joplin whenever they are needed. Last year was an especially demanding time when tornadoes stuck with fury in the US. Just six weeks prior to the Joplin tornado, Tyson was in Northern Alabama with 270,000 pounds of of food.
Crews from 10 Tyson locations including Monett, Sedalia, Noel, Missouri and Rogers, Arkansas were among the first to help out with the cooking. It's a huge undertaking to organize such an effort, many elements have to "come together." There are so many needs that it's hard to know what services will be needed the most. Food, ice and water, storage for products being cooked, supplies... in all there were 6 tractor trailers on site. In the weeks that followed, 120,000 pounds of food were served to the citizens and emergency workers in the Joplin area. That was a 24/7 job, 2,000-3,000 meals per day.
Much was learned during the weeks that followed. Tyson took those lessons back to headquarters at Springdale, Arkansas and put together a 53 foot, self contained trailer outfitted with enough space to store 20,0000 pounds of meat. The transportation division of Tyson took the lead and planned out a truck that is designed to set up and run a cooking site complete with tents and lights, sanitation equipment, cooking and serving supplies, a generator, hydraulic lift and even a Wi-Fi hot spot via satellite! When disaster strikes, the "Meals that Matter" truck; along with grills and volunteers can be on site within 72 hours.
Ed Nicholson, Tyson's Director of Community Relations, said the company has signed a formal statement of collaboration with the American Red Cross to become a Disaster Responder Partner. "We think that's going to make quick response more efficient, being able to get in and get situated faster. They know us, we know them, so there's some trust built up." The Red Cross counts on partners like Tyson to provide the funds and supplies needed when disaster strikes. Nicholson said food safety is another area where Tyson can help out the Red Cross, "The last thing they want to do is make people who are hit by tragedy sick... it's critical of what we do."
The residents of Joplin have struggled over the last year to recover and rebuild. With the help of many volunteers and the strength and determination of the Missourians that call Joplin home... the community is on it's feet again. What Americans do best... follow their heart and help others in need!
*The official loss of life was 160, it was later found that one fatality died of injuries unrelated to the tornado.