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Chefs, restaurant owners and food truck operators come together to provide food relief in western Kentucky

Dawson Springs, Ky. was one of the areas hit hardest by the tornados that devastated parts of western Kentucky early Saturday morning.
J Tyler Franklin
Dawson Springs, Ky. was one of the areas hit hardest by the tornados that devastated parts of western Kentucky early Saturday morning.

Southern Reds BBQ is a small place. Owner Micah Seavers describes it as a small, country-style store restaurant. 

When the storms passed through Seavers’ town of Pilot Oak, his home and restaurant were spared.

He immediately jumped into action, just two hours after the storm had passed Seavers said he was cooking up meals for first responders. 

Since Friday night, Seavers has continued to use his tiny restaurant to produce a huge amount of food and relief for the people affected.

Seavers said he has given out nearly 60,000 meals to residents of Pilot Oak and other impacted communities.

“If you were blessed to not be touched by [the tornadoes] and you don’t go reach out, shame on you,” Seavers said.

He said food is an important part of making sure recovery efforts can continue.

“At the end of the day, everybody likes meals, everyone likes hot food in their mouth when they’re getting stressed,” Seavers said. “Food is a comfort.”

Other chefs and restaurant owners are also aiding in food relief.

Chef José Andrés and World Central Kitchen came in to offer help. The LEE Initiative, out of Louisville, has mobilized restaurants and food trucks to the affected areas.

The LEE Initiative has been able to help get eight to 10 different food trucks out to the region daily. 

LEE Initiative co-founder, Edward Lee explained that food trucks have become particularly important following mass power outages.

“Food trucks were really valuable at this time,” Lee said. “They’re mobile, they can go to a different site, they can go anywhere.” 

A food truck’s ability to move and not rely on established power sources has given them leeway other food providers haven’t had.

The food trucks and restaurants helping out through the LEE Initiative include: 

  • Aeja's Kitchen
  • Bamba Eggrolls
  • Chicago's Jerk Tacos
  • Hurrikane's
  • Fresh out the box
  • Let's Get Fried
  • Jus Burgers
  • Alchemy Louisville 
  • Rolling Oven

Lee said that almost as soon as he began putting out calls for help, the replies came.

“The response was incredible. Everyone wanted to help, everyone,” Lee said. “We still have people calling and emailing us about volunteer work.” 

For both Lee and Seavers, community responsibility and togetherness got them moving.

“It’s Kentucky, we live here,” Lee said. “It’s a part of our community.”

“This is my town, this is my area, this is my community. Communities are only as small as you make them,” Seavers said. “And whether it be down to Samburg, Tennessee or up to Dawson Springs, Kentucky communities are only as small as you make them. ” 

Both Lee and Seavers plan to continue to help and adapt to the needs of the community as recovery efforts continue over the next few months and years.

“The blessing about being in the business we’re in is that we’re used to change and chaos,” Seavers said. “We will keep working with it.”

“There will be a need for people to continue to give and help,” Lee said.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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