Ensuring our Nation’s children and families in need have access to healthy meals is a priority at USDA and that promise is of particular emphasis during times of disaster or emergency. Throughout National Preparedness Month this September, USDA recognizes the importance of being ready and wants the public to know the resources available to them during a time of great need.
When disasters strike, it’s not only important for you and your family to be prepared, it’s also critical that your community be prepared. USDA supports local communities by providing access to healthy meals in emergency situations. Schools, emergency shelters, and summer sites that operate the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Food, or Summer Food Service programs may provide access to healthy meals for children in such events. Child care institutions may also serve as emergency shelters in a disaster situation.
Children in households receiving Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits or identified as homeless by a school district’s homeless liaison, school, or emergency shelter official are eligible for free meals provided by USDA’s child nutrition programs. To offer additional support, USDA Foods stored at state, local, and school warehouses intended for the National School Lunch Program and other USDA nutrition assistance programs, may be used by local disaster relief organizations. These groups may include the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, who are well-versed with disaster feeding efforts.
USDA is also mindful of the need for flexibility in these difficult times. In response to Hurricane Sandy, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service allowed administrative flexibilities that let the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs provide an estimated 39.4 million free breakfasts and lunches to children in New York due to the large number of displaced school children. USDA also provided more than 41,000 pounds of food to survivors in New Jersey who were temporarily sheltered in place and in need of food.
If you are in need of food for your family in the midst of a disaster, contact the disaster relief organization in your area to determine which sites are providing children or families with free meals. For more information about disaster nutrition assistance in your community, contact your local Red Cross.