Imagine traveling through the Japan countryside, through beautiful, green rice paddies and tree covered mountains when you turn the bend and see the coast. You can easily see the water two miles away because what once was thriving coastal cities, is now a layer of debris, mostly flat except for the piles that workers have begun to sort the wreckage.
The earthquake and tsunami in Japan was March 11 and the disaster area is still very devastating to see. (Watch a video of the tsunami of the area we were in here) Buildings flattened, cars crushed, hundreds of boats inland. It was a very emotional sight, but the Nebraska Corn and Beef teams had a great mission in front of them – to cook and feed 500 servings of U.S. beef to evacuees.
The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) team set up at a hotel that was on top of a hill near a fishing village on the coast that was spared. The hotel owner opened up the hotel as a shelter for people from the area. This shelter was open to feeding the people staying there, as well as local cleanup workers to come and enjoy a free meal.
The team cooked U.S. sirloin steaks that were donated by many U.S. companies through USMEF for the relief effort. Sam Harada, USMEF senior director, said they have partnered with trade organizations like food service, wholesale, processors, etc., to lead the cooperative relief effort. They have gone to more than 30 locations, served more than 93,000 servings of beef and pork and have a goal of serving more than 100,000.
"The relief efforts are very important to lead to a recovery of the meat market," said Harada. "It is great for the Japanese people, but also to help show the compassion of U.S. beef and pork producers."
All of the evacuees were very grateful for the U.S. beef, as many of them did not have meat for more than one month after the disaster. It was humbling to walk through the line of evacuees waiting for the beef bowl lunch and receive handshakes, thank you’s and big smiles.
You can see more pictures of the tsunami disaster on our team’s Flicker online photo album.