National BBQ group serves up meals after Cedar Rapids storm

Lunch and dinner will be served daily at 11 sites

Dewayne Daniel, director of disaster coordination and field training, pulls pork loin from the smoker Sunday for Operati
Dewayne Daniel, director of disaster coordination and field training, pulls pork loin from the smoker Sunday for Operation BBQ Relief at The Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids. The nonprofit will provide hundreds of free meals a day across 11 sites in Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Dewayne Daniel drove 533 miles from Jonesboro, Ark., to make sure Cedar Rapids residents got hot meals Sunday night.

The competitive barbecue chef and director of disaster coordination for Operation BBQ Relief worked with his crew to smoke 1,000 pounds of pork loin and heat 3,000 servings of canned corn at a mobile kitchen in the parking lot of The Eastern Iowa Airport.

“When you’re trying to feed the masses, you need to have a large amount of meat,” said Daniel, 56.

Operation BBQ Relief was planning to serve about 500 dinners Sunday night at 11 sites around Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha as thousands of residents endured their seventh day without electricity after the Aug. 10 derecho.

“It’s really nice, especially because we have four kids,” said Rob Mumma, who picked up barbecue Sunday evening from Roosevelt Middle School. “It’s hard to cook when you don’t have power.”

The Mummas have been grilling on their propane grill — until they ran out of propane — and even cooking over an outdoor firepit, Nicole Mumma said. “Plenty of wood,” she joked.

The Kansas City-based nonprofit will stay, serving lunch and dinner every day, until power is restored to the city.


Other organizations, including Mercy Chefs and Chelsey’s Dream Foundation, were serving free food Sunday, as were food trucks from across the Corridor.

O’s Grill, a Cedar Rapids food truck that serves gyros and other food, provided free sandwiches from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday at Nixon Elementary in Hiawatha.

Katie Edward, 33, of Cedar Rapids, stopped by to pick up sandwiches for her boyfriend’s parents, who don’t have power and are struggling to keep the father’s oxygen machine going with a generator.

“It’s been a nightmare for them,” Edward said. “Every single day we’ve been getting food for them and gas for the generator.”

LaJoyce Kearney, 53, of Hiawatha, was waiting with her grandson, Timothy Fowler, 11, of Cedar Rapids, for a meal from O’s Grill. She said neighbors have joined together, cooking meals on the grill and sharing Popsicles and ice cream before they melted.

“We’ve even, for breakfast, cooked pancakes and eggs on the grill,” Kearney said. “We fed the neighborhood.”

The Zach Johnson Foundation helped bring Operation BBQ Relief to Cedar Rapids, said Pat Baird, a foundation board member. The group also is taking the lead in paying food trucks for their lunchtime service Sunday, he said.

The professional golfer from Cedar Rapids is friends with Harrison Sapp, a barbecue restaurant owner in Saint Simons Island, Ga., Baird said.


“This Operation BBQ Relief was trying to find someone in Cedar Rapids to talk with, but couldn’t because all communications were down and businesses were closed,” Baird said. “Zach put him in touch with me Thursday night.”

Among the crew at the airport Sunday were several competitive chefs who volunteer on deployments near and far.

Daniel, whose specialty is brisket cooked Texas style with a hard crust of salt, pepper and other seasonings, has been deployed on 19 Operation BBQ Relief missions. Community meals always include a protein, starch and a vegetable.

“Later in the week, we’ll do some Italian seasoning and some brown gravy,” he said. Operation BBQ Relief also has a special smoker with different meats, such as chicken or beef, that can be cycled through to give neighborhoods some variety, Daniel said.

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