‘Exponentially bigger’: Food banks anticipate need for food if hurricane occurs during pandemic

Hurricane season has officially begun and its recommended that families have enough food for seven days in the event of a storm, but some families struggle to have that much food in general. Feeding Northeast Florida plays a vital role in helping families with this problem.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hurricane season officially started June 1. To prepare, emergency officials recommend families have enough food for seven days in the event of a storm.

Feeding Northeast Florida said when a storm hits the Jacksonville area, the need for food goes up.

“We currently help on a day-to-day basis, one out of every six people are food insecure,” said Eli Darkatsh, director of Compliance and Capability. “When a hurricane hits, that number quickly increases.”

Darkatsh said when Hurricane Irma hit in 2017, the organization distributed more than 830,000 meals.

“When you think about the pandemic on top of that, there’s really a large demand spike for food assistance,” explained Darkatsh. “So it’s a logistical challenge when you think about roads that might be closed, how to get food to where it needs to be quickly, for example to emergency shelters.”

Due to the impact of the pandemic, Darkatsh said he expects the need for food will be greater this year if a storm hits.

“It will exponentially be bigger, but the extent of it is hard to predict because every hurricane is different regarding how long it lasts, how strong it is, how fast it moves, how many tornadoes and where those tornadoes hit,” Darkatsh said. “It’s really a case-by-case basis on each storm with the impact it will provide.”

To prepare, Feeding Northeast Florida said it works closely with its partners.

“We develop those relationships all the time with Red Cross, Salvation Army and United Way and then the county level emergency managers, we make sure that they have MRE’s and waters at the emergency shelters in advance, we have truckloads at our warehouses ready to go,” said Darkatsh. “It’s a six-month time period that we need to have supplies in stock for that first 24 to 48 hours and then after that, that’s when we usually get additional support from FEMA.”

Darkatsh reminds residents in Northeast Florida to prepare ahead of hurricane season, including a kit with non-perishable food and water. To volunteer or donate, visit https://www.feedingnefl.org/.

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