Feeding America member food banks have distributed more than 3 million pounds of food, water and cleaning supplies in communities impacted by Hurricane Matthew since the disaster hit one month ago. The network has been working quickly to meet the pressing need for food and groceries in the southeastern U.S., despite some food pantries sustaining flood damage, including structural damage and loss of food inventory. Thankfully, food banks and other food pantries are stepping in to help in communities where local food pantries have experienced hurricane-related challenges.
Currently, food distribution efforts in many areas have transitioned from urgent disaster relief to recovery and restocking. Shelters are closing, people are returning to their homes and local businesses are reopening. Unfortunately, many people were forced to throw away significant quantities of food after the hurricane. In some cases food was damaged by flooding, and in others it could not remain refrigerated due to power losses. With generous support from volunteers and donors, Feeding America member food banks are helping refill empty kitchen cupboards.
Although life is slowly returning back to normal in many impacted areas, others are taking much longer to recover. This is especially true of regions that already struggled with widespread poverty, food insecurity and other challenges before being struck by Matthew. These include areas like Robeson County, North Carolina, where many families have to make tough decisions to either buy food or medicine, or pay rent or utilities. According to Map the Meal Gap 2016, nearly 30,000 people in Robeson County—20 percent—are food insecure. The hurricane exasperated their situation. Many people in these communities did not have the money to prepare for the disaster, and sadly, it caused significant damage.
Nearly a month after the storm made landfall in the U.S., two communities in Robeson County are still without power. Additionally, many workers haven’t received a paycheck in weeks because their places of employment have been closed due to flooding. For example, public schools across the county were closed until recently, leaving teachers without pay, interrupting students’ studies and forcing working parents to find last-minute childcare solutions. Fortunately, Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina was able to provide water and ice to some schools to help them reopen, and now, all nine schools in the county have resumed classes. However, many others in the community are still waiting to get back to work.
A number of households affected by the hurricane have attained access to D-SNAP (Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) so they can buy groceries. However, pockets of flooding, road closures and vehicle damage have made transportation an ongoing challenge. Some people are still dependent on mobile food distributions by Feeding America member food banks to gain consistent access to the food they need.
As people affected by this disaster seek to return to normalcy, the Feeding America network remains committed to providing them with food and groceries so they can focus on recovering from this tragedy. Long after the news cameras are gone and other organizations have left, Feeding America food banks will remain embedded in the hardest-hit communities to help people through the long process of rebuilding their lives.