Trailer Talk

Big Kitchen Trailer Serves Thousands in Wake of Disaster

March 2, 2012

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The other night my wife and I were watching a Modern Marvels episode on "food trucks," primarily custom-built catering rigs based on walk-in van chassis. The producers also zeroed in on Manna One, a big kitchen built on a semitrailer frame specifically for disaster relief.


It's operated by the North Carolina Baptist Men with support from the American Red Cross. It went to work last August after Hurricane Irene swept up the East Coast, leaving many thousands of residents homeless and hungry. Before it was done, the storm killed 56 and caused $3.1 billion in damage, according to news stories and official reports.

The kitchen trailer was built Carlin Manufacturing, the show said, so I went to Carlin's website and found this explanation of the rig:

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"Carlin recently partnered with the North Carolina Baptist Men to produce Manna One, a unique mobile disaster kitchen to support their field feeding mission. Manna One was developed to operate on a flow-through basis with a large covered production platform on each side of the trailer.

"Bulk food product is delivered and prepped on one side of the trailer. It is then cooked in two production areas, one designed for baking and roasting and the other for frying and steaming.

"Once cooked, the food is moved to loading platform of the complex, loaded into insulated carriers and transported directly into the field by ERV's (Emergency Response Vehicles).

"In addition, at the rear of the trailer there is a hydration platform for the production of coffee and beverages to compliment the food production. This process provides maximum efficiency allowing production of up to 30,000 meals per day."

The show's script writers, always hungry for seemingly impressive statistics, included this line for the narrator: "This giant food truck weighs in at a whopping 24,000 pounds!" That, I'm guessing, is the weight of the single-axle kitchen trailer alone, as the old Volvo tractor that pulls it probably weighs another 14,000 or so.

Carlin has built hundreds of mobile kitchens for commercial and non-profit use, its website says. It has facilities in California and Illinois.

Modern Marvels shot a lot of video of volunteers preparing hamburger and chicken patties, peas, lima beans, ravioli and other "healthy food," as a Baptist head man described the chow - no deep-fried food at all. Presumably, victims' hearts had been strained enough by the storm. Vans and reefer trailers carried the canned and frozen food to the kitchen during the operation.

Aside from the cooking equipment, Manna One has a 2 kW diesel generator and two 35-gallon propane tanks that make the kitchen and its volunteer staff self-sufficient, the narration said. That's a must because power lines and fueling stations are among the things knocked out by a major storm.

This trailer and its dedicated staff might not dispense manna from heaven, but the food is just as good to folks badly in need of a meal. Bless those Baptists for what they do. Nice job, Carlin, on that kitchen trailer. And thank you, History Channel and Modern Marvels, for educating us about amazing equipment.

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Author Bio

Tom Berg

Senior Editor

Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978. CDL-qualified; conducts road tests on new heavy-, medium- and light-duty tractors and trucks. Specializes in vocational and hybrid vehicles.

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