In time of a storm, earthquake, hurricane, flood, or any other type of natural disaster, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) assists the victims through its Food and Nutrition Service.
It provides commodity foods for shelters, issues emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and also provides food directly to households in need. The primary responsibility of the service is to provide food to disaster relief organizations, such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army.
During an emergency, these organizations request for food assistance. State agencies then get in touch with USDA and notify the department of the quantity and type of food needed to assist victims.
However, if a state runs out of food supplies, the department makes all necessary efforts and ships food from nearby states. SNAP benefits are also authorized in places where presidential emergency is declared.
A disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is established after the state’s request and people, who initially don’t qualify for SNAP, can get assistance through D-SNAP. The system has a different set of rules and eligibility requirement than SNAP.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the USDA announced it will send food to households directly. According to a department spokesperson, Texas will also receive SNAP benefits really soon.
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the department distributed more than $680 million worth of disaster SNAP assistance to nearly 1.5 million households.
“We were really hungry, and when we got the food stamps, we were so happy,” said Crystal Estrada, a victim of Hurricane Harvey.
Although the program offers variety of food to the victims, but meals that take little or no preparation time is preferred, as they makes the process easier and quicker. Items such as canned juice, canned meat, and canned fruits and vegetables are a top priority.
Spotlight, Banner: Reuters, Andres Martinez Casares