November 12, 2019

Meal Delivery When Disaster Strikes

Written by Garret Weigel

An often-overlooked function that transportation carriers and operators provide is meal delivery during and after a major disaster. When a hurricane strikes, wildfires consume a region, floods rush in, or an island is nearly devoured by dangerous winds and rains, much of the infrastructure of an area can be wiped out. The food that's available to survivors is either nonexistent or unfit for human consumption.


Aiding Disaster Relief

Various transport modes have been used to bring food to disaster areas to feed hungry survivors. When a hurricane struck the Bahamas, the major cruise ship operator Royal Caribbean Cruises went into the area to not only accommodate survivors, but also to serve about 20,000 meals a day and provide much-needed medical supplies.


royal caribbean cruise ship

Explorer of the Seas, a cruise ship owned and operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises.


Cruise ship companies aren’t the only ones involved in providing the transportation and delivery of food when disaster strikes. Numerous organizations that typically operate behind the scenes do notable outreach work for survivors. The Feeding America Network links approximately 200 food banks and some 60,000 food pantries and meal programs to provide an accessible network of food in a disastrous situation.


More specifically, they've positioned emergency food supplies throughout the country in an effort to distribute them rapidly and in a ready manner when needed. They also build partnerships with other humanitarian organizations that can provide access to equipment and supplies needed for providing such a large-scale feeding.


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During a disaster, the non-profit, which serves the hungry in non-disaster situations as a humanitarian mission, will leverage their ready networks and utilize their 10 million square feet of warehouse space and about 2,400 trucks. Relief includes food, water, medical supplies, and any other needs that may be required. Their logistical work and dedication to providing these resources are critical in such situations.


how we feed america

How Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief organization in the US, operates. Source:


Another organization performing a similar function is Mercy Chefs, a faith-based nonprofit disaster relief organization. It serves professionally prepared meals not only to victims of a natural disaster, but also to volunteers and first responders who are working there. Mercy Chefs has provided more than 2 million meals and delivered aid in more than 23 states and eight countries. They accomplish this with a wide and generous network of 6,000 volunteers.


Hurricane Harvey

Not long ago, Hurricane Harvey struck Houston, Texas. During that time, the trucks and extended supply chain also fell victim to the hurricane. Many vehicles were stranded, flooded, and unable to move, which presented a major supply chain strangulation. Essentially, it affected the road truckers and others who service the supply chain, causing them to also need help. Numerous trucking companies generously pitched in to aid all the victims in the area. For instance, an Idaho trucking company partnered with the United Way to pack some trucks and send down supplies to the Harvey victims.


USDA Steps In

Unbeknownst to many, the USDA has a Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) that provides food to a disaster relief effort. As part of a National Response Framework, the USDA explains that:


"FNS supplies food to disaster relief organizations such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army for mass feeding or household distribution. State agencies notify USDA of the types and quantities of food that relief organizations need for emergency feeding operations."


In addition, according to the USDA, states have authority to release USDA Foods to disaster relief agencies for mass feeding when the president issues a disaster declaration, and in certain other types of emergencies. All this effort demonstrates the many missions of transportation and how a robust supply chain with strong logistical pipelines can serve those in need and bring relief for victims and workers when disaster strikes.


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