Food Assistance for Disasters

Perhaps one of the most immediate concerns following a disaster, such as a storm, earthquake, civil disturbance, or a flood, is ensuring that people have access to food. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is responsible for effectively managing the federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, coordinating relief efforts, and making assistance available to States, communities, businesses and individuals.

One way USDA Foods helps in times of disaster is by providing foods for shelters and other mass feeding sites or, in certain circumstances, directly to households in need.

Foods for Shelters and Mass Feeding Sites

Every State and U.S. territory has an inventory of USDA foods readily available as part of its nutrition assistance programs. If the President approves a State’s request and issues a disaster declaration, then the State has the authority to release these USDA foods to disaster relief agencies to feed people at shelters and mass feeding sites. These sites may be approved by the State, and the State can determine how long to provide the assistance.

States may use foods in inventory from all FNS programs for mass feeding in a disaster, and FNS will, at the request of the State, replace the USDA foods used. USDA foods for schools should be used first, since those food items are available in sizes appropriate for feeding large groups. For more information contact your state’s agency. See a list of state agency contacts.

Email yourself a link to the FNS USDA Foods Disaster Manual.

Food safety is an important aspect of the USDA nutrition assistance programs. The links below offer more information about how the FNS Office of Food Safety coordinates food safety and food defense efforts for USDA Foods programs.