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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.

Be Prepared! Do YOU Know USDA's Role in Helping Families Following Disasters and Emergencies?

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.

Philadelphia Fights Hunger Through Academic, Faith and Community Partnerships

The City of Brotherly Love puts its motto into practice. I saw this firsthand when I travelled to Philadelphia to meet with a network of community leaders who partner with USDA through its Summer Food Service Program. With this program, USDA subsidizes nutritious summer lunches for students who need them and works with community partners to deliver those meals.

In Philadelphia, about 22% of children live in households that have trouble putting enough food on the table for every member of the family. That means when school is out, and school meals are not available, many kids are vulnerable. The Summer Food Service Program plays a critical role in making sure kids have access to nutritious meals so that they can begin the school year well nourished and alert.  My friend and former director of the White House’s Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives during the George W. Bush Administration, Professor John DiIulio, invited me to Philadelphia where he currently works at the University of Pennsylvania’s Fox Leadership Program.

Powerful Partnerships Feed Hungry Milwaukee Kids in the Summertime

An African proverb holds that it takes a village to raise a child. And what’s a village? Well, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it’s the Milwaukee Hunger Task Force (the State’s largest food bank and anti-hunger advocacy organization), Kohl’s Department Stores, Milwaukee Public Schools, the Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Clubs, the Social Development Commission and the Milwaukee Park System.

When the school year ends, many children and teens who rely on USDA school meals are at a higher risk of going hungry during the summer when school is not in session. USDA’s Summer Food Service Program can make sure that kids don’t go hungry summer, but the program can’t work without sponsors and supportive communities.