(St. Joseph,MO) The Carolinas are slowly recovering after Hurricane Florence crashed into the coast in September, but as more people are returning to rebuild, food insecurity is becoming a major concern for people in the area.
Thomas Bauer, Chief Operating Officer for the Second Harvest Food Bank in St. Joseph, spent two weeks in Fayetteville, North Carolina helping re-establish food bank services.
"When you have a certain threshold of food insecurity and people who are just above that threshold, when you have a disaster like this, it takes those people that are just struggling enough to be above that threshold and it moves them below that food insecurity line. So the percentage of food insecure individuals in their service area grows exponentially," Bauer said.
Feeding America is rotating volunteers from sister food banks like Second Harvest in and out of Fayetteville, North Carolina to help with the new demands.
Cortez Phillip is the Agency Relations Manager for the Second Harvest Food Bank in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and said the out-of-state volunteers have been essential to get food to people in need.
"All of them are food bankers. What they know is the job that they do back at home. They know exactly what we are doing, so all that work, all that help has been invaluable," Phillip said. “The warehouse side helps out in the warehouse. The operations side helped work so that it was flawless. People who were missing or people we didn’t have, we didn’t really miss them because we had the extra help.”
The Fayetteville food bank typically serves seven southeastern counties, but with thousands of people impacted by the storm, their distribution numbers have more than doubled.
“They’ve done about 2.1 million pounds of food in the last three weeks. They are similar in size to Second Harvest here in St. Joe, in that they only do about 11-12 million pounds of food in a year,” Bauer said. “So that 2.1million in three weeks is significant compared to they typically do 800,000 pounds in a month.”
Philip said after Florence hit, Hurricane Michael followed closely behind, pushing a majority of the disaster relief to Florida where the damage was more severe. When the debris is cleared, the food insecurity will still linger.
"It takes a lot longer to recover from that than it does just to pick up the physical pieces of the disaster,” Bauer said."It grows quickly, in a day, two days, a week and it stays there a long time. Even after trees have been cleared, debris has been cleared, homes have been fixed that line still stays there."
Volunteers from Feeding America estimate it will take at least six months for Fayetteville to recover from Hurricane Florence. Bauer said he was happy to help and the disaster relief offered a learning experience for him.
St. Joseph Second Harvest is restructuring their emergency plan for the winter months by working with two other food banks in Kansas and two in Oklahoma.
“We are a cohort where we are working through, not only rewriting our disaster plans, but working in a collaborative effort together to help each other in a time of crisis,” Bauer said.