How Can You Share Your Post-Hurricane Pantry?

By Vivian El-Salawy on October 6, 2017

The past couple of months have struck certain areas of the world with some unlucky natural disasters, with Hurricane Harvey dancing around Houston, Hurricane Irma’s impact on areas of South Florida (and especially the Keys), and particularly Hurricane Maria’s destruction of Puerto Rico.

To this day, people in these regions are left homeless, powerless, and in some instances, have yet to hear about the status of their dearest family members and friends. However, there is also an incredibly fortunate population of individuals that may have been in the path of any of these storms at one point or another that had prepared and evacuated as instructed but experienced little to no damage. It is always better to be safe than sorry, but the greater question is — what do you do afterward?

Many Tallahassee residents stocked up on bottled water and filled up any container they could find with tap water from their local grocery stores or breweries. Gas prices shot up because everybody loaded up their gas tanks in the case of an emergency evacuation. Food items from bread and crackers to canned soups, fruits, and vegetables were all missing off shelves from any store that sold them, and more likely than not, they are probably still sitting in many of these residents’ pantries.

The media heavily emphasizes what to do in preparation for a hurricane in terms of what resources you should utilize and what to stock up on, but after the storm passes, what do you do with all of your leftover resources?

Image via Maui Now

Many stores are required to dispose of returned gallons of water and canned goods after their purchase because they are still considered fresh produce — whether unopened or not, these stores are not allowed to re-sell these items and therefore must throw them away.

Having said that, there are many ways that you can help those that were left in less fortunate situations in areas such as Puerto Rico, Houston, and South Florida.

The Boston Globe reports that it is hard to estimate how much time it will take to rebuild Puerto Rico’s grid, especially given that the island lost 100 percent of its power at one point or another. Many sources estimate that it may take somewhere between four to six months to recover. Consider what that does not only to families at home but how that affects the entire economy of Puerto Rico, leaving many unable to work and therefore, unable to provide for their families or follow any kind of social system for quite some time.

According to WFSU, Tallahassee attorney Gisela Rodriguez gathered relief supplies for her homeland of Puerto Rico. She collected items such as “water, batteries, along with battery operated lanterns and radios, manual can openers, first aid kits, flashlights, matches, candles, duct tape, insect repellent, soap and hygiene products, cell phone portable chargers, non-perishable foods, baby formula, diapers, mosquito repellent, soap and hygiene products, cell phone portable chargers, non-perishable foods, baby formula, diapers and adult and children’s clothing.”

In addition to Rodriguez, Florida State University also held a donation drive in support of Puerto Rico. While the planes with these supplies took off on Thursday, September 28, there are many national organizations that are raising awareness and support through donation drives, such as UNICEF.

Image via FSU Undergraduate Studies

Locally, there are plenty of resources for donating canned goods and water bottles/gallons of water. The Second Harvest of the Big Bend takes place on Thursday, October 19 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Second Harvest provides food to those who are in need in the 11 North Florida counties.

Feeding America is offering disaster relief to the situation in Puerto Rico as well. Feeding America has food bank locations in areas all over Florida and is actively working to help support families that are trying to recover from hurricanes including Maria, Irma, and Harvey. You can donate your canned goods by searching for a local food bank on their website, or you can donate to the organization to help provide for these families as well.

In a Business Insider article, Leanna Garfield writes that according to the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI), monetary donations are the best way to provide aid to these families, along with donating blankets, food, and toys.

Image via Hurricane Preparedness

While canned goods are perfectly fine sources of food that you can still utilize post-storm, the reason it is important to consider donating them to areas and individuals in need is because while you may have other resources for food and utilities such as running water and electricity, many of the affected areas still do not. You have the ability and opportunity to choose between making a quick stop at a drive-thru window, making a healthy meal at home, or “knocking out” one of your leftover canned goods. Many of the families in Houston, South Florida, and Puerto Rico do not have a choice — they either have food, or they don’t.

Image via ABC News

“I couldn’t reach my family for a whole week,” Macros Ventura said, a music teacher in Polk County whose family currently lives in Puerto Rico. “After a week, I was able to reach out to my aunt, and she told me that my grandpa was doing well and that the worst thing that happened was flooding at the house. It wasn’t until another week that I heard from my dad and my sister. Two weeks went by without me knowing that they were alive,” Ventura said. 

“Now, there is no power and many people are left without water. Little by little, people are running out of food and therefore are becoming desperate. It has gotten to the point that people are murdering other people to steal the generators. The situation is disastrous,” Ventura adds.

It is important to consider that while your area may no longer be in a state of crisis, that does not mean that other areas have recovered quite yet and that there are many more that are in the same mindset that you were in for a couple of days that may be in that mindset for several months.

Vivian El-Salawy is a senior at Florida State University. She is currently pursuing a degree in Editing, Writing, and Media with minors in Slavic (Russian) Studies and Communications. Alongside writing for FSView & Florida Flambeau, WVFS Tallahassee 89.7 FM, and the Good Life Community magazine, she is a member of the World-Renowned Marching Chiefs and Seminole Sound.

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