Feeding South Florida Preparing for Hurricane Irma

Feeding South Florida Preparing for Hurricane Irma

By Anna Quillen, NBC

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. – With Hurricane Irma fast approaching, local relief and emergency
agencies are gearing up for a busy week.

Feeding South Florida is one of the largest entities in the area in charge of helping feed storm
victims when a crisis strikes.

The non-profit, which normally helps the hungry, homeless and low income families, is
switching gears this week into to storm mode as Irma inches closer to the South Florida region.

“We’re a staging site for FEMA so we’ll take MRE’s, water — we mobilize our fleet if Salvation
Army or Red Cross needs a space for additional vehicles,” said Sari Vatske, Vice President of
community relations and overseer of the food bank’s programs.

She told me at any given moment, the food bank has 2 million pounds of food on hand. The
organization has a 72,000 square foot warehouse in Pembroke Park and a 25,000 square foot
warehouse in Boynton Beach for food storage.

“We do have supplies on the ground and we will have supplies ready to go should a storm come
through,” she said. “Should anything arise, we’ll be working with our sister food banks around the state to stage products on the ground.”

So donations are not a need right now until after the threat has passed.

“Really the support that we’ll need are volunteers to help with call center, volunteers to help
sort the food, and of course, financial donations,” said Vatske.

The organization also enlists in local food pantries and churches to help assist storm victims if
needed.

“As part of a network, an umbrella for 400 nonprofits, we survey our agencies to understand
their disaster relief capabilities. So we know which agencies have pick up trucks, we know
which agencies are able to help cook, provide meals,” said Vatske. “In addition to the food that
we already have on hand, FEMA will provide MRE’s and water. So we’ll get trailer loads of
products coming in, whether it’s from other food banks or other organizations.”

For now, Vatske says it’s a waiting game.

“We’re cautiously optimistic. At this point, it’s still a little too early to tell but we are
monitoring it closely.”

Feeding South Florida usually works with hundreds of churches and soup kitchens across the
region to feed low income families. Those operations will continue as normal for now as they
keep an eye on the storm.

To learn more about the role Feeding South Florida plays in disaster relief, click here.
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