30,000 pizzas departing Franklin Park, arriving in Afghanistan
DHL employees hand each other empty boxes in a line representing the 30,000 pizzas that are being shipped to U.S. servicemen by Pizza 4 Patriots Thursday, June 28, 2012 at DHL Express in Franklin Park. The pizzas will feed more than 90,000 U.S. servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan courtesy of DHL Express and Pizzas 4 Patriots. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 6, 2012 6:25AM
FRANKLIN PARK — The largest pizza delivery of all time departed from Franklin Park on Thursday.
30,000 pizzas — that’s a 3 followed by 0, 0, 0, 0 — left DHL Express, 10451 W. Waveland, at 8 a.m. on their way to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The cargo could fill half of a 747 aircraft.
Correction: A headline incorrectly stated the pizzas were heading to Iraq. They are going to Afghanistan. Also, in the story below, the boxes are trucked to Cincinnati Airport, not John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. We regret the errors.
The frozen pizzas were prepared at the behest of retired Master Sgt. Mark Evans of Elk Grove. Evans came up with the idea in the spring of 2008.
“We were sitting at the dinner table on a Friday night,” Evans said. “The war was on TV. My son said, do they have pizzas there?”
Evans thought that was a fine idea. He e-mailed U.S. Gen. David Petraeus who then was commanding general of multinational forces in Iraq and is now director of the CIA.
“He answered in 12 hours,” Evans said. “I love pizza. Send our guys pizza.”
Within five weeks Evans had formed Pizza 4 Patriots and had raised enough money for 2,000 pizzas. DHL Express, an international shipper, volunteered to ship the pizzas to servicemen in Iraq in time for Independence Day.
They ship a growing number of pizzas twice a year — during the Super Bowl and Fourth of July.
Great Kitchens of Romeoville, which prepared the deep-dish pizzas this year, is still figuring out the bill, possibly as much as $300,000. Evans, a 26-year veteran of the Air Force, raises money through a combination of TV appearances, a few radio ads and a lot of e-mails.
The logistics of transporting 54,000 pounds of pepperoni-and-cheese pizzas more than 6,900 miles are a bit tricky. The boxes are trucked to Cincinnati Airport in New York, then flown to Kandahar, Bagram and Camp Leatherneck, a joint U.S.-British base. From there the U.S. military takes over and trucks the pizzas around Afghanistan.
To keep the pizzas fresh, the boxes are covered in dry ice. Dry ice turns into carbon dioxide gas as it melts, which can be dangerous in enclosed space. Because of that, DHL is shipping the pizzas in five parts. The dry ice also has to be replaced every 48 hours.
No one has applied for the record, said Ethan Mattern, senior manager of Government and Defense at DHL. If someone did, they might get it.
According to the Guinness website, the largest pizza delivery ever made was by Papa John’s, which delivered 13,500 pizzas to a shipyard in San Diego in 2006, to celebrate the completion of a ship.