So what does Swine Flu (H1N1) have to do with Food Insecurity?

May 4, 2009 § 2 Comments

blog_lisa2Lisa Goddard
Advocacy and Online Marketing Director

When a Texas school district shut its doors for a couple of weeks as a precaution for the H1N1 (Swine) Flu this past week, parents whose children rely on the free and reduced price school lunches faced an additional challenge. 

How will these parents financially support unplanned child care and keep their children well nourished for two weeks?

Disasters, from hurricanes to pandemics, interrupt employment and sever access to human service programs. Pandemic flu preparation and response methods, such as stockpiling food and water, pose a significant hardship for those struggling to have the basic necessities each day.  While pandemic flu does not discriminate, low-income people are particularly vulnerable in the event of an outbreak.

In addition to creating their own disaster response plan (read ours here), Food Banks work closely with federal, state, and local officials in distributing food, communicating information about food stamp access during a disaster and helping to expedite disaster food assistance through D-SNAP. 

What is D-SNAP?
blog-post_5409The Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) provides replacement benefits for SNAP recipients during disaster. Eligibility criteria are broadened, and a streamlined application and issuance process extends benefits to households that would not ordinarily be eligible for SNAP. D-SNAP, like SNAP, is fully federally-funded and administered by states. Because federal nutrition programs are entitlements, they can respond quickly and effectively without waiting for further legislative action.   

While D-SNAP has a proven track record of effective relief after hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters, the program needs improved flexibility so it can respond appropriately during a pandemic. Government and nonprofits will also need to work collaboratively and creatively to ensure we can meet the need.  The Capital Area Food Bank has been in contact with legislative representatives to address those concerns and offer suggestions to ensure food security in the case of a pandemic flu outbreak.

 A short personal story
 I was an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Food Bank when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast.  Since then, I have also been part of the Hurricane Ike response efforts at the Food Bank, where my role included increasing access to SNAP. As humbling of an experience it is to participate in disaster response here in Austin, I could not help but think of the many poor who were forgotten and disregarded.  Our shared responsibility to nourish the hungry is even greater in moments of crisis.

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§ 2 Responses to So what does Swine Flu (H1N1) have to do with Food Insecurity?

  • Ruth Kaplan says:

    After Hurricane Katrina, I had my personal emergency food pantry to tide me over until I could evacuate from St. Tammany Parish, but many of my neighbors who stayed or returned after the storm were broke and hungry, desperately awaiting end of month checks that were delayed by the disaster. We must NOT forget the working poor, who live paycheck to paycheck and do not have the surplus to accumulate an emergency pantry or savings to tide them over.

    Any time the normal balance of job, health, housing, transportation and income are disrupted, that is a disaster for that family. Only when it happens to thousands of families, do we think of it as a disaster.

    If the tree falls on your neighbor’s truck, it wasn’t so bad a storm. But if the tree fell on YOUR truck, and another one fell on YOUR house, THAT’s a disaster!

  • […] addition, Tyson tied the outbreak to issues relevant to its cause by including shortened links to an article about swine flu and food […]

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