Tough times and dire circumstances have a longstanding history of bringing America’s communities and organizations together. The recent storms that descended on much of the nation’s Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions have underscored these important partnerships.
For many of the stricken areas, including the urban centers in the Northeast, natural disasters of this scale are relatively rare. And households containing the very young, elderly and those with special needs are of particular concern to USDA and our many partners engaged in these emergencies.
To aid those in Hurricane Sandy’s crosshairs, USDA swiftly coordinated with FEMA, States, and partner organizations to provide disaster nutrition assistance in 13 states. By issuing automatic, mass replacement of SNAP benefits to certain households hit by the storm – for instance – SNAP individuals and families currently participating in SNAP will be able to replace their food purchased with SNAP benefits that spoiled due to flooding and power outages. In the severely affected areas of New Jersey and New York SNAP recipients will be granted a waiver to purchase hot foods with their benefits. In addition, USDA has worked with retailer trade associations to ensure SNAP authorized stores are aware of this waiver and eligibility for the purchase of hot foods through the month of November. Meanwhile, several other States have been granted extensions to report loss of food purchased with their SNAP benefits and to request replacement benefits.
USDA is also working with States and industry partners in these States to remind SNAP retailers of the procedure for manually processing SNAP transactions during power outages. This critical step ensures SNAP recipients living in areas with power outages continue to have access to the food they need.
Also in hard-hit New York, FNS is allowing flexibility to New York City Public School Districts to serve and claim all meals as free that are served through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Programs throughout November. FNS approved the purchase of infant formula and baby food to supplement the Infant/Toddler Kits provided by FEMA to support sheltering operations in the State as well.
During this time, FNS has expanded latitude to provide food assistance during disasters in the following ways: providing USDA Foods to State agencies for distribution to shelters and other mass feeding sites and offering USDA Foods to State agencies for direct distribution to households in need in certain situations. FNS has provided USDA Foods to both New Jersey and New York working through local voluntary organizations to distribute the foods to households affected by the disaster.
For more information about disaster nutrition assistance, visit FNS’s disaster website. Visit www.usa.gov/sandy for the latest Hurricane Sandy Response information and resources available from government agencies.