Disastrous Waste

WF reader Bess recently wrote in to discuss food recovery in the wake of natural disasters, particularly hurricanes like Ike. It’s an tricky topic, as storms create both a real need for food and plenty of food waste from power loss. 

Stores are often forced to throw away all perishable foods. Even after they regain power, the amount of wasted perishables can be higher than usual, as fewer customers are around and they may not purchase fresh ingredients because they may not have the electricity needed to cook.

Bess lives in Louisville, where Ike knocked out power for hundreds of thousands. Newscasts there showed supermarkets throwing out lots of perishable food when they lost power. This surprised me, as I imagined most grocery stores would have backup generators. A New York Times article mentioned Houston supermarkets having generators. Perhaps only larger ones?

On a related note, the same Louisville TV station passed along these food safety precautions for power outages. Like most mass-distributed guidelines, they’re a bit cautious, but I thought I’d pass them along.

Anyway, Bess is interested in aiding food recovery by acting as a contact person between donors, transport and destination points in these extreme situations. Has anyone heard of food banks or relief agencies rescuing food from supermarkets in cases of power loss?

In one of my visits to D.C. Central Kitchen, we collected food from a White House kitchen when it’s refrigerator failed. Racks of ribs, lamb and other high-end stuff. But I imagine it’d be pretty difficult to find food recovery volunteers when wind gusts are topping 100 m.p.h.

There’s hunger in all lands, but the Ike-ravaged nation of Haiti is especially familiar with suffering. Donations to Yéle Haiti will help Ike victims there.

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