WASHINGTON — Puerto Rico families struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria have started receiving assistance in the form of food boxes packed with nutritious, 100 percent American grown and produced USDA Foods from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the food packages are designed to address an immediate need for food until a longer-term solution is ready to be put in place.
“People in Puerto Rico face unprecedented challenges,” Perdue said. “Due to the widespread damage and power outages, the island has little or no food that can be bought in stores, and we at USDA are working hard with the territorial leaders to make sure households get the food they need.”
Disaster Household Distribution was approved by the USDA to begin on September 26, at the request of the Puerto Rico Department of Family. Each box will contain approximately 9-16 pounds of USDA Foods. The boxes are expected to reach approximately 500,000 households.
USDA is also working to provide additional food deliveries to meet increased need during the disaster and support those affected by the hurricane. USDA will replace the foods used for the Disaster Household Distribution so that Puerto Rico will continue to have USDA foods available.
USDA is making food assistance in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands available through other channels as well:
- USDA Foods are being used in both territories for congregate feeding in shelters. This assistance has been critical to their ability to provide meals to families that have been displaced by the hurricanes.
- Flexibilities for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) participants in both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have also been provided to assist women and children in getting the nutritional support they need. Given that certain prescribed foods are in short supply on both islands, USDA will continue to work with the territories to ensure that families are able to utilize their benefits on foods that are currently available.
- Schools are expected to be closed in Puerto Rico for a month or more; they may be able to open sooner in the U.S. Virgin Islands. USDA stands ready to work with both territories on waivers/flexibilities to ensure that school meals can be made easily available when schools open.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which together comprise America’s nutrition safety net. For more information on FNS assistance during times of disaster, visit www.fns.usda.gov/disaster.
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