WASHINGTON — American families coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma will receive much needed nutrition relief, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced. Notably, packages of American grown and produced nutritious USDA Foods will be available across hurricane-stricken areas in Florida.
The move is part of a series of actions the USDA announced in recent days, as the department continues its efforts to help Americans in need following the devastation left by Hurricane Irma in Florida, Georgia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the food boxes are designed to deal with an immediate need for food in locations ravaged by Hurricane Irma, where food resources are scarce.
“In the wake of this historic storm, many Floridians face major challenges finding food for their families, and the nutritious USDA Foods provided in these packages will help address that need until the area has recovered to a point where a longer-term solution can be put in place,” Perdue said.
The Disaster Household Distribution program was approved to start Sept. 14. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will work within its food bank network to serve people located in presidentially declared disaster areas.
Given the widespread damage throughout the state of Florida, it is estimated that several thousand families will benefit from this program. The food banks will utilize their current network of pantries to distribute foods in areas affected by Hurricane Irma.
Each of the packages will contain 25-30 pounds of USDA Foods and will be based on existing shelf-stable items in identified food banks and the availability of electricity and potable water in the particular area being served.
Additional Hurricane Irma related actions taken by USDA in recent days include:
- Approving a request from the U.S. Virgin Islands to replace 100 percent of September 2017 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for the residents participating in the program who suffered food losses resulting from Hurricane Irma.
- Approving a request by the Florida Department of Children of Families to allow SNAP participants to buy hot foods and hot ready-to-eat foods with their benefits through Sept. 30.
- Approving a similar request from the U.S Virgin Islands to allow program participants to buy hot foods and hot ready-to-eat foods with their benefits through Nov. 13.
- Approving Florida’s request to automatically replace a portion of the September benefit in 52 counties. These replacement benefits will make up for food lost due to power outages and flooding as a result of Hurricane Irma. Eligible households will automatically receive these benefits on their EBT cards by the end of next week.
- Approving Florida’s request to allow households who did not automatically receive replacement benefits until September 29 to report food loss, rather than the typical 10 days.
- Issuing a special Evacuee Policy designed uniquely in response to Hurricane Irma which provides all SNAP state agencies with the choice of using the program’s expedited service provisions or offering evacuees in who have travelled to their state with one month of disaster benefits using streamlined program procedures. The Evacuee Policy applies to anyone who resided in a county that received a Presidential disaster declaration for Individual Assistance, during the time of Hurricane Irma, did not receive SNAP benefits in September 2017, and who evacuated to another state that chooses to apply the policy.
- Approving requests from Florida that will ensure ongoing SNAP households can continue to participate during this time of great need and reduce the state’s administrative workload for the next month so it can focus on disaster recovery. Specifically, USDA is allowing Florida to extend certification periods for all ongoing SNAP households in the state for one month and waive reporting requirements for the month of September 2017.
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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