USDA Provides Relief to Households Hit by Hurricane Fiona
Washington, DC, September 26, 2022 — USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) continues to work with the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to address the needs of island residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona. FNS is providing food packages containing nutritious, high-quality foods that are 100% grown and produced on farms in the U.S. – known as USDA Foods. USDA approved the short-term measure to address an immediate need for food until a longer-term solution is ready to be put in place.
USDA granted approval to operate a disaster household distribution beginning on Sept. 20 and continuing through October 15. The disaster household distribution food package will be provided to 30,000 individuals and will contain a variety of USDA Foods including protein foods, vegetables, fruits and grains. The pre-packed boxes will be distributed by self-pick up at the Administration of the Socio-Economic Development of the Family (ADSEF) warehouse, Food Bank of Puerto Rico, and MARC Ministry distribution sites.
The Puerto Rico Department of Education will also be using USDA Foods for congregate feeding at 2,500 shelters through at least Tuesday, Sept. 27. Through each of these actions, FNS has been able to streamline program administration and participation to better meet the needs of those affected by the disaster.
Additionally, USDA will continue to allow participants of Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program to buy hot foods with their NAP benefit card through Sunday, Oct. 9. Previously this waiver was set to expire on Sept. 25. In response to the lack of basic services and the hazardous weather conditions, Puerto Rico requested that USDA waive state plan requirements to allow hot foods to be purchased at certified retailers utilizing the NAP card. The items sold by these authorized retailers are hot at the point of sale. The purpose of this temporary policy is to address the inability of NAP participants affected by Fiona to prepare food at home.
“Many residents of Puerto Rico are struggling due to the devastation left by Hurricane Fiona,” said USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean. “We are working with our federal, state and industry partners to give the citizens of Puerto Rico the needed flexibility to feed their families while they recover from this disaster.”
Days after the storm hit, nearly one million people remain without power and a half-million do not have access to running water. Fiona also brought historic flooding to Puerto Rico nearly five years to the day when Hurricane Maria brought destruction to the commonwealth.
To ensure that children in Puerto Rico receive the assistance they need, USDA has granted Puerto Rico a number of flexibilities in the operation of the Child Nutrition Programs including:
- Non-congregate meal service: waives the requirements to serve child nutrition program meals in a congregate setting.
- Parent and guardian meal pick-up: waives the requirement that child nutrition program meals may only be served directly to children.
- Meal service times: waives the requirements setting meal time parameters for child nutrition program meals.
- Service of Meals at School Sites during Unanticipated School Closures: waives the requirement that limits the operation of SFSP during an unanticipated school closure to non-school sites. FNS also extends the service of meals at school sites during unanticipated school closures flexibility to SSO for the duration of this waiver.
- Offer Versus Serve (NSLP): waives the requirement to serve school lunches to senior high school students using offer versus serve. FNS also extends the offer versus serve flexibility to SSO for the duration of this waiver, when there is an unanticipated school closure during the school year.
- Meal Pattern Exception (NSLP/SBP): temporarily allows school meals and afterschool snacks that do not meet the meal pattern requirements.
These actions are the latest in a series of steps that USDA has taken in the whole-of-government effort to help residents of Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Fiona. USDA has also deployed personnel to aid FEMA in disaster response efforts.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service leverages its 15 nutrition assistance programs to ensure that children, low-income individuals, and families have opportunities for a better future through equitable access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food, while building a more resilient food system. Under the leadership of Secretary Tom Vilsack, FNS is fighting to end food and nutrition insecurity for all through programs such as SNAP, school meals, and WIC. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. To learn more, visit www.fns.usda.gov and follow @USDANutrition.
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