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USDA Helps Eastern North Carolina Recover after Matthew

When Hurricane Matthew hit last month, disaster struck as high flood waters devastated communities up and down the East Coast. Agricultural producers in Eastern North Carolina were hit especially hard and suffered devastating losses to crops, livestock, and property.

Secretary Vilsack recently designated 39 counties in North Carolina as primary natural disaster areas, in addition to 15 contiguous counties. This week, I traveled to the state to visit some of the communities that were affected. I saw a peanut farm littered with uprooted plants and cracked shells. I met with an organic tobacco producer whose top soil had completely washed away. I visited a sweet potato and soybean farm that suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses. We drove by washed out roads and gutted homes with waterlogged furniture piled high on the side of the road.

West Virginia: After the Flooding Neighbors Helping Neighbors Get the Food They Need

It was late July in Greenbrier County, W.Va., almost one month to the day since torrential rain and flooding struck most of the state.  In response to the disaster, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service approved the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) request to operate a Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) in several of the most severely impacted counties, including Greenbrier.  At several of the D-SNAP application sites throughout the state, dozens of DHHR staff prepared for what they anticipated to be a busy week of conducting interviews, determining eligibility, and issuing D-SNAP benefits to residents who lost food, income and property due to the flooding.

The Year of the Flood

Incidents described as “thousand year storms and floods” and “the worst U.S. disaster since Hurricane Sandy” claimed the lives of more than 58 people in Louisiana, West Virginia and South Carolina over the last year.  These disasters often remind us of the devastating impacts that families and their communities face after they strike.

After emergency life saving operations, food and shelter assistance are the most important priorities with which emergency managers must contend.  It was during these times that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) responded to 22 incidents by providing needed nutrition assistance.  More than half of these disasters involved severe and widespread flooding, including the most recent floods that affected residents in 22 parishes in and around Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Making Families Whole Through Disaster Response

As part of National Preparedness Month and Hurricane Preparedness Week, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released a video featuring a team that traveled to South Carolina in October 2015 to cover the floods that affected more than half of the state. People lost their jobs, cars, and some even lost their homes. USDA takes pride in knowing that along the way we were there, along with our partners in disaster feeding, the South Carolina Department of Social Services and The Salvation Army, to help those most in need.

The team also traveled to New Jersey, a state ravaged by Hurricane Sandy and still recovering from its impact, to show how FNS’ Disaster Household Distribution Program and congregate feeding efforts were able to provide meals to more than 26,000 people. Following the recent flooding in Texas and Louisiana, the 2015 flooding in South Carolina, and Hurricane Sandy, FNS’ Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) provided benefits to eligible individuals who did not qualify for regular SNAP benefits, but who experienced disaster-related expenses, such as loss of income and property. With D-SNAP these families received a little extra help to put food on the table for their families.

Are You Ready? Do You Know How USDA's Nutrition Assistance Programs can Play a Vital Role in Helping Those Most in Need Following a Disaster?

Twice a year, as part of America’s PrepareAthon!, USDA works closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as well as with other Federal, state and local partners to promote emergency preparedness.  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.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) ensures people have access to nutritious food when they find themselves suddenly in need of assistance following a storm, earthquake, flood or other disaster emergency.  Oftentimes after a disaster, retail food stores are closed making it impossible for families to get the food they need.  Even after stores reopen, disaster survivors often still are recovering financially which makes buying food difficult.  FNS programs are there to help in those circumstances.