The Salvation Army’s mobile kitchen is in Yellowknife, keeping hungry firefighters fed.
The commercial kitchen, which is more than 30 feet long, is part of the organization’s emergency disaster services division, which sends supports to areas experiencing disasters.
Major Al Hoeft, a spokesperson for the Salvation Army who previously lived in Yellowknife for 15 years, said the city’s fire division asked for the mobile kitchen to feed firefighters working on keeping fires around the city at bay.
The kitchen had previously been in the city feeding Behchokǫ̀ residents when the neighbouring community was evacuated due to the same wildfire in late July.
The Salvation Army also has people on the ground in Edmonton serving NWT evacuees at various hotels.
In Yellowknife, the kitchen is staffed with two to four people serving around 100 firefighters three hot meals a day at École William McDonald Middle School.
“We also brought a refrigerated truck up so we have the supplies we need,” said Hoeft. “We are prepared to be there for as long as we need. We’ve got the resources there.”
Hoeft said officers, staff and volunteers working at the kitchen are also trained to provide other supports to first responders in an emergency.
“It’s not just hunger, it’s also psycho-social needs,” he said, ranging from informal conversations while serving food to providing a listening ear if people need to vent. People can also be referred to counselling services.
“Lots of people don’t have anyone to talk to,” Hoeft said, explaining that people staffing the mobile kitchen can fill that role while working as chefs.
Major Ed Dean, who lives in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, is in charge of the kitchen this week in Yellowknife.
He reeled off a menu of sloppy joes with coleslaw, chicken and mushroom alfredo, barbecue pork, and beef tenderloin “with a beautiful medley of vegetables, compliments of the local grocery store.”
“We are going to make sure they are not hungry,” Dean said, suggesting some of the firefighters are burning 5,000 to 6,000 calories a day.
He said another organization – Canada Task Force 2 – is handling feeding other people on the ground, like contractors.
“It’s been a real honour to come alongside and feed some first responders that need the break,” he said. “They are doing their work and we are doing our work keeping them hydrated and full of nutrition.”
The Salvation Army team is up at 4am each day to start prepping breakfast, and their goal is to be done with dinner by 8:30pm.
“It’s only for a season,” said Dean of the long days. “Then things will come back to normal, hopefully.”
The Salvation Army plans to rotate staff and volunteers in and out of Yellowknife to avoid burnout. New staff will overlap with old staff to learn the ropes before taking over.