The Salvation Army in Victoria has marked National 2020 Emergency Preparedness Week by unveiling its newest and largest community response unit — a mobile canteen truck that can feed up to 1,000 people an hour.
The 10-metre long converted 2017 Freightliner is attached to the charity’s Emergency Disaster Service and is based in Victoria. A similar van operates in Kelowna.
The truck can be deployed in response to emergencies such as fires, floods and earthquakes. Salvation Army members will staff the unit, serving drinks and meals to evacuees and first responders.
“It’s a commercial kitchen on wheels. It’s the best of its kind in Canada, on par with units attached to the military,” said Sheldon Feener, executive director of the Victoria Salvation Army Addiction and Rehabilitation Centre. “It’s ready to go at a moment’s notice.”
The vehicle has a grill, six-burner stove, three ovens, a 20-rack warming oven, refrigerator, freezer and an on-board fire-suppression system.
The truck, a gift from Walmart, did not see much use at its original base in North Vancouver and a case was made that it was needed more in Victoria.
“The truck is one of 20 similar Emergency Disaster Service vehicles found in British Columbia,” said Patricia Mamic, public and government affairs director for the B.C. division of the Salvation Army. “There are similar numbers in Alberta and Washington state. In case of a major catastrophe, such as an earthquake, we can draw upon those units as well.”
The program, which responds to human needs caused by disasters, has been in place across Canada for more than 100 years, Mamic said.
The Victoria region used to be served by the Salvation Army Beacon Bus, a converted school bus that was used for more than 15 years. Each Friday, it could be found parked in front of the Blanshard Community Centre, providing meals to those in need.
The new truck was pressed into service as soon as it arrived in town, delivering drinks, meals, warm clothing and counselling for vulnerable people affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Our reputation for helping continues,” Feener said. “You will find the truck serving the street community with meals three times a week.”