Families who have been displaced from their homes by flooding in Hurricane Florence need food assistance. The food banks in North and South Carolina, Virginia and other storm hit areas is where they are turning for help.
But we must help out the food banks. It’s crucial they have enough food to aid storm victims.
It’s hard enough for a food bank to have adequate supplies during “normal” times to help the poor and hungry. When a disaster strikes, the needs become even greater. The need for donations goes up as well.
Hurricane Florence, now turned Tropical Depression, has forced families to flee to shelters. They need food and comfort in this time of major stress.
The FoodBank of Central and Eastern North Carolina got a head start on Florence. Spokesperson Jessica Whichard says, "We began distributing food and supplies to some of our disaster relief partner agencies (we work with a network of about 800 across 34 counties in North Carolina) prior to the storm’s arrival- water and easy-to-distribute snacks."
Amanda Allen of Feeding America Southwest Virginia says they are distributing fresh sandwiches, apples and cole slaw to shelters in Danville and Roanoke, which have requested supplies because of the flood threat.
The impact of this storm will be felt not only immediately, but over the coming months and even years.
Homes have been damaged and some lost. People will lose income from flood damages to businesses. For those already struggling in poverty, this can be a dangerous situation. Many will need a helping hand from food banks for the storm recovery.
Children will especially be at risk of hunger. After Hurricane Harvey struck Houston last year, the food banks got numerous requests for school backpack programs to provide needy children with food. Donations are needed to make sure these requests can be met.
Our Feeding America system of food banks is at the frontlines of disaster response like Florence. It depends on donations from the public. Congress also has a critical role to play.
Congress can help our food banks by ensuring supplies through the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which is part of the Farm Bill. TEFAP is a major source of supply for food banks, an important pillar for fighting hunger in America.
When determining important legislation like the Farm Bill, Congress must consider the importance of TEFAP for feeding hungry Americans.
Matt Knott, the President of Feeding America, was urging Congress to increase TEFAP funding even before Hurricane Florence struck. With 40 million Americans still living in hunger, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report, the need for more TEFAP funds is clear.
The Farm Bill will be decided in the coming months. Citizens can contact their member of Congress to support funding for TEFAP.
You can help food banks cope with Hurricane Florence recovery by donating to Feeding America, the national organization that coordinates our food banks. Or you can donate directly to food banks providing hurricane relief including Harvest Hope Food Bank, Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, Lowcountry Food Bank and Feeding America Southwest Virginia.
Tragedies like Hurricane Florence should remind us all how important our food banks are for helping Americans through harsh times.
William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program on the book "Ending World Hunger."