Hurricanes and Hunger
This year (2017) there have been three (3) Category 4 hurricanes – Harvey, Irma and Maria – that devastated the United States and displaced millions of Americans. Our hearts go out to all the people affected by the hurricanes. Our nation came together in support of the victims after each of these disasters. This was evident by the out pouring of food, clothing and monetary donations from non-profit agencies, governments (federal, state, local), businesses, the military and private citizens. When disaster strikes, how do the government and food relief organizations ensure that people have enough to eat? One means for ensuring this is through programs that are within the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The USDA’s mission is to ensure that life sustaining resources, such as food, are available to natural disaster victims. Every state has a stock of commodity food on reserve that is used for USDA sponsored programs. Some of these programs are The National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Several of the disaster relief organizations (i.e. the Salvation Army and the Red Cross) request food assistance through state agencies that manage the USDA’s nutrition assistance programs. State agencies notify the USDA of the types and quantities of food that the relief organizations need for emergency feeding operations. The USDA authorizes the state to release this food to feed the people.
When the President declares an emergency, the USDA can also authorize the issuance of Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP), also known as food stamps. The D-SNAP system allows states affected by the storms to provide waivers and flexibility in administering federal nutrition assistance programs. Individuals who may not normally qualify for these benefits may now be eligible under D-SNAP.
On October 18, 2017, Texas state officials made the decision to reopen D-SNAP for individuals affected by Hurricane Harvey. In the state of Florida, D-SNAP eligible households that were affected by Hurricane Irma received two months of benefits. In Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico National Assistance Program (PAN) is in operation in lieu of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The USDA has reported that Puerto Rico is operating a disaster household distribution program until October 27, 2017. However, there still remain vast shortages for food and water in Puerto Rico.
On October 11, 2017, The Guardian reported that FEMA officials were concerned about a huge food shortage for Hurricane Maria victims. FEMA indicated that the government is providing 200,000 meals a day, but there is a shortfall of two (2) million meals a day.
The road to recovery will be long for some of the families, children, and adults affected by these disasters. We are to commend the private citizens, organizations, fundraiser concerts and everyone that donate their time, resources and money to assist hurricane victims. All of us can pray for the restoration of the victims’ lives.
“Let’s All Eat Together”