When disasters force families to evacuate, an immediate concern once they’ve reached a safe place is how and where to get food. Another challenge is feeding the sudden large influx of first responders such as firefighters and the National Guard.

In August, Off the Grid partnered with several of its talented food creators to quickly ramp up and provide welcome relief to Caldor wildfire evacuees and first responders — which also provided much-needed revenue to its creators. The Food Responders program is currently providing hundreds of freshly prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner meals daily to evacuees and National Guard troops deployed to help fight the Caldor fire still raging near South Lake Tahoe.

If you’re a food creator—such as a food truck, mobile food vendor, caterer or restauranteur—you might be wondering how you can help your local community during natural disasters. Your business also might be struggling to stay afloat while the lingering COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc. Here’s a bit of bright news in this sea of bad and sad news — Off the Grid is inviting food creators to become part of their new Food Responders program, which officially launched this summer.

Off the Grid’s Food Responders program unofficially began when Off the Grid and its network helped provide meals during the 2017 California wildfires. In 2020, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, local and state aid agencies turned to Off the Grid and its partners to prepare and deliver thousands of meals to shelter-at-home seniors, low-income families and frontline workers around the Bay Area. The 2020 fire season created another vast need for emergency food that OTG provided.

Now, organizations like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, plus state and local agencies, know they can count on Off the Grid, often when they’ve exhausted their resources and must move on to a new disaster. Off the Grid is proud of this program because it is a win-win for those in need and its food creator partners. 

Our Food Responders program is now official, and Off the Grid is striving to build a permanent network of food responders who can aid their local communities when disasters strike. Another benefit of participating in our Food Responders program is that creators can count on a steady income when providing relief because prices are fixed ahead of time on a per-meal basis. 

Off the Grid provides training to help businesses learn how to scale quickly and abide by necessary dietary restrictions for emergency food relief. When we asked our recent Food Responders participants about the learning process, many said it was “easier than they thought” and that they felt “well-prepared.” They also urged other vendors to participate.

Here’s what our Food Responders had to say about working with Off the Grid. 

“It was easy and organized. It’s a great organization helping people and situations in need. In natural disasters, we believe it is better to help through organizations like this than on your own. This and other government programs have kept us going and involved. Gives us an income, livelihood and sense of community.” Yarbrough’s Catering.

“The OTG people were very nice and definitely doing their best in the situation.” SoGood Catering.

“It’s always rewarding and helpful, especially during these very hard times as a mobile food vendor. Meeting the people we were helping who were happy for fresh meals and a smiling face was one of the most memorable moments.” The GrilledCheezGuy

“Talking with the National Guard, traveling through an evacuation zone and seeing how close the fire got to our homes were some of the most memorable moments. OTG helped give us business while we were personally evacuated. We look forward to other opportunities with the company.” Betty’s Balls, Tapas & Catering

“Do it!! It’s a great opportunity and again very fulfilling.”  — Betty’s Balls, Tapas & Catering

Deploying hundreds of meals at one time may seem daunting for smaller food vendors or vendors who haven’t catered large events. Once they’ve tried it, many are now seeing a new revenue opportunity by adding permanent catering services to their mobile food vending business. 

We invite you to learn or apply to become a Food Responder partner at our website FoodResponders.us. We can help you use your talents to make a difference in your community!