An Insider’s Peek at Disaster Relief

Our Programs Director, Jennifer Mariano, is currently in Houston serving as a disaster capacity advisor for Feeding America. She’s been sending us snapshots of her experience at the Houston Food Bank:

“Greetings from Texas! Time is flying by here. I spent the first two days getting acquainted with the food bank staff and making about 200 phone calls to partner agencies to determine if they were open or sustained damage from the hurricane. I spent Wednesday driving all over Houston visiting “pop-up” distribution sites that are non-partner agency sites that have been set up to distribute food in areas affected by flooding that either don’t currently have partner agencies, or the current agencies don’t have capacity to distribute large quantities of food. There are 63 of these sites that myself and two other people are going to visit to ensure they are safely handling food and distributing it appropriately.

If you weren’t aware, the Houston Food Bank is the largest food bank in the country, and they received the honor of Food Bank of the Year from Feeding America last year. Their operations on a normal day are impressive, but post disaster is mind boggling. They have received 13,125,481 pounds of product and have delivered 10,442,637 pounds over the past 14 days. They have seen just over 10,000 unduplicated volunteers over the same period of time. I heard that this is equivalent to roughly 199 full-time staff. Operations are still running 24/7 and likely will until the September 30th. The food bank is sending out 100 trucks of food a day! The volume of incoming trucks has slowed to about 2 per hour. At one point last week, I am told that police had to be brought in to manage the amount of truck traffic on the road in front of the food bank. It’s been amazing to see how they make everything work.”

Hundreds of Hurricane Harvey disaster relief volunteers at the Houston Food Bank.


Update sent on 9/18:

Happy Monday!

I can’t believe that I have been here a week. The days are just flying by! I visited “pop-up” sites Wednesday through Saturday last week. I saw 28 sites and traveled almost 600 miles in those four days. Many of the sites that I am visiting have been distributing food and supplies to families for two weeks straight and they don’t normally do any type of food distribution. I’m amazed by how wide-spread the flooding was and how one house in a neighborhood can be completely untouched but another house in the same neighborhood, two streets over, was flooded with three feet of water. All of the water has finally receded and what’s left is mainly piles of debris in front of homes. Some areas that were impacted look as though nothing happened, but others still have huge piles of debris that’s awaiting pick-up. The Houston Food Bank is still going strong. They have collected nearly 15.5 MILLION pounds of food, seen nearly 12,000 volunteers, and have received donations of food or money from all 50 states and the territories, and 40 countries since the hurricane hit.

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