Friday, October 7, 2016

Food banks unite to recover from historic floods

Food Depository warehouse worker Shane Lanning serves hot meals in Baton Rouge to people affected by flooding.
In August, historic flooding hit Louisiana. The state endured a crippling deluge unseen in the United States since Hurricane Sandy – in just days, Southern Louisiana received nearly 30 inches of rain. More than 60,000 homes were destroyed, leaving 11,000 people homeless.

Food banks across the nation responded. Staff came together to assist with disaster relief and to support the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, whose warehouse was flooded with 4 feet of water. Feeding America, the national network of food banks, coordinates disaster response among members. When Feeding America puts out the call for help, food banks throughout the country step up to provide product, equipment, staff, and technical expertise to address the needs that follow a natural disaster.

“We got the call asking for assistance in Louisiana and we had staff in a truck on the road less than 48 hours later,” said Sheila Creghin, vice president of operations for the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

In that truck were Food Depository employees Shane Lanning and Jose DeSantiago.

“When we pulled off the interstate in Louisiana, all I could think was, ‘wow.’ For miles, people’s belongings were out in trash piles in their front yards. There was soaked garbage everywhere,” said Shane, a Food Depository warehouse worker.

With the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank underwater, Shane and Jose were directed to drive to New Orleans. They worked with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans, alongside staff from other food banks across the region, to respond to the disaster.

“People were definitely happy to see us,” Jose said. “Some of the food bank staff had been working 18 days straight when we arrived.”

Jose and Shane helped in every way they could. Jose, a Food Depository truck driver, did disaster relief deliveries. He made the two hour trip from New Orleans to Baton Rouge to get food and essential supplies like bottled water to people displaced by the flooding. Meanwhile, with many of Second Harvest’s regular warehouse staff busy with disaster response, Shane helped prepare and load food so that deliveries to the food bank’s partner agencies wouldn’t be delayed.

While serving hot meals in Baton Rouge, Shane and Jose had the chance to meet some of the people affected by the floods.

“One family that was there for a meal had been staying in a motel. The water kept rising and they eventually had to be rescued by a boat. They lost everything,” Jose said.

Shane and Jose were in Louisiana for two weeks, with two days of travel each way. Without hesitation, they both said they’d make the trip again.

"We were a thousand miles away from home, but we came to help. And we did," Shane said.

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