USDA Responds Quickly in States Hit by Hurricane, Flooding

2017-09-01

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has wasted no time working in Texas and Louisiana to respond to the emergency food and nutrition needs of families and individuals affected by Hurricane Harvey. “In this time of crisis, with many grocery stores closed and other sources of food unavailable, USDA is committed to ensuring that our fellow Americans get the vital nutrition they need and is streamlining procedures to make that happen,” said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in a statement issued on August 31.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is working with officials in the affected region to help feed displaced and affected residents. The agency has granted several waivers in Texas allowing schools in the National School Lunch Program to provide free meals. It has also provided more flexibility to schools in what they can feed kids, given the challenges of preparing specific foods during this period. 

“FNS works every day to ensure Americans have access to food, but it is during events like this that we have to be nimble,” explained FNS Administrator Brandon Lipps. “Our job is to make it as easy as possible for our programs to be administered in a way that ensures no one affected by this disaster goes hungry.”

Steps already taken by USDA in Texas include:

  • Approving a request by Texas officials to waive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) regulations to allow program participants to buy hot foods and hot ready-to-eat foods with their benefits. FNS has notified authorized SNAP retailers in Texas of this waiver, which will be in effect through September 30.
  • Supporting the state in its plans to shift the full SNAP issuance schedule for September to the first of the month so that families have access to their monthly benefits sooner during this time of immediate crisis.
  • Allowing all schools in declared disaster counties to waive the National School Lunch Program meal pattern and meal service time requirements. This will allow schools to serve meals that do not meet the menu planning or meal pattern requirements for schools and child care institutions and facilities in the affected areas through September 30.
  • Allowing all disaster affected schools to provide meals to all students at no charge and be reimbursed at the free reimbursement rate through September 30.
  • Providing the state the flexibility needed to allow seniors who participate in the Commodity Supplemental Food Program in the service areas impacted by the hurricane to receive two food packages in September to make up for the loss of their August food benefit.
  • Approving Texas to designate schools not directly impacted by the Hurricane to serve as disaster organizations and shelters so that USDA foods can be used for congregate feeding, providing critical food assistance to those in need. USDA Foods include a variety of canned, fresh, frozen and dry products which include fruits, vegetables, meats, and whole grains.

Details of waivers can be found here.

In addition, FNS is concurrently providing technical assistance to Louisiana and offering support as needed. 

FNS has coordinated with the Texas State Department of Agriculture to provide food deliveries to voluntary organizations as needed. FNS has determined the available USDA food supplies in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas in anticipation of requests by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide food deliveries.

For more details on FNS assistance during this and other times of disaster, visit www.fns.usda.gov.

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