Disaster relief efforts October 2017
Food for People, the food bank for Humboldt County, sent staff and a cargo van to assist partner food bank in Santa Rosa, Redwood Empire Food Bank (REFB) during the October 2017 wildfires. The REFB staff worked around the clock to respond to food needs in Santa Rosa, including providing critical food to shelters throughout Sonoma County for evacuees displaced by the fires. They also worked to ensure that those who needed food assistance before the fires were still able to access their help.
As Food for People executive director Anne Holcomb stated, “This is about partnership. Many of our colleagues are impacted right now, and we want to do everything we can to support them, because we know they would do the same for us.” Several of the REFB’s staff and their families had already evacuated or were in the process of evacuating their homes due to the active nature of this extreme fire event. All were and still are coping with deep loss among family, friends and the community. Food for People’s Mobile Produce Pantry Coordinator Mike Seeber headed south to Santa Rosa to offer relief to the REFB’s warehouse staff, driving a Food for People cargo van full of food donated by Eureka Grocery Outlet.
Food for People's Volunteer & Direct Services Manager Philip Anzada headed down to REFB several days later to relieve Mike, helping to train an influx of volunteers and devise systems to help the donation processing and volunteer workflow operate smoothly. Philip has been working with Food for People since 2013 and brought several years experience doing on-the-ground Red Cross disaster relief work and volunteer coordination across the country, in addition to volunteer and staff recruitment, training, and support at Food for People. We’re grateful that he could lend his expertise and expand it for Humboldt County as well.
In addition to helping out a fellow Food Bank in need, Food for People staff brought back important knowledge and experience to help Food for People further develop its existing Emergency Food & Disaster Response Plan for Humboldt County. Should a major disaster strike Humboldt County and resources become scarce, Food for People will play a major role as part of the first line of community food relief before outside relief organizations will be able to reach our rural area. In some scenarios this could take weeks. Food for People would work with its network of 17 food pantries and many partner organizations to distribute food throughout the county to those experiencing hardship.
Read on for more information about our Emergency Food & Disaster Program...
Humboldt County can experience numerous types of natural disasters, including earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and fires. As first responders, state, county and city emergency personnel are poised to respond all over the county to such events. However, their supplies, equipment and staffing may be severely limited to respond to all emergency situations based on the scope, nature and location of the disaster. That’s where Humboldt County VOAD, Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster, comes into play. Food for People has been an active member since it’s inception in 1992.
The main goals of VOAD are communication and sharing of information among governmental agencies and volunteer organizations; providing unified and clear messages to the public; collaboration to achieve specific goals without redundancy and duplication of efforts; and cooperation with other VOAD members as partners that could assist one another by sharing resources and personnel. VOAD members provide a forum where organizations can share knowledge and resources throughout the disaster cycle, from preparation to response to overall recovery of their communities.
In the event of a disaster, Food for People will take a leading role in the procurement, storage and distribution of food in affected areas around Humboldt County. Through partnership with other local nonprofit organizations, and with the assistance of the Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services (HCOES), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), American Red Cross and Feeding America (the organization that governs food banks nationwide), Food for People will be responsible for obtaining and directing food resources countywide. In addition, we will provide a facility where donations of food and funds can be collected, sorted and disseminated appropriately.
Above: Food for People responds for inland wildfire evacuees temporarily housed in a hotel on the coast.
Disaster CalFresh (known as Disaster SNAP or D-SNAP at the federal level) provides temporary food assistance for households affected by a natural disaster. It provides one month of benefits to eligible disaster survivors and can facilitate the issuance of supplemental benefits for ongoing households. People who are not usually eligible for CalFresh can qualify for Disaster CalFresh if they meet the criteria below. This includes people receiving SSI. The State and affected counties work together to apply to the USDA for Disaster CalFresh. Once approved, there is a 7 day application window. In order to get Disaster CalFresh, people must apply for it within that 7 day window. To be eligible for Disaster CalFresh, a household must fall under these guidelines:
Live and/or work in the identified disaster area and experienced at least one of the following:
- Cannot work or get paid because of the disaster, or
- Had your home or place of self-employment damaged, or
- Have disaster-related costs (including lost food), or
- Cannot access savings or checking accounts.
An affected area must have received a Presidential declaration of "Major Disaster" in order to request Disaster CalFresh.
Disaster CalFresh timing varies with the unique circumstances of each disaster, but always begins after commercial channels of food distribution have been restored, and families are able to purchase and prepare food at home. The idea behind this is that stores need to be open and able to process EBT cards. In some cases resources might be focused on congregate meal sites and emergency food distribution, if there isn't a way to access grocery stores and/or prepare food at home. Before operating Disaster CalFresh, a State will ensure that proper public information, staffing, and resources are in place.
After Disaster CalFresh goes live for applications to be submitted, interviews must be face-to-face.
If people with disabilities who are displaced require accommodation, the County will work with them.
Can households have a Disaster CalFresh interview in the county they have evacuated to?
Yes, the State can work with county offices to prepare to conduct these interviews. If you know a disaster evacuee from another California county, who is now staying in Humboldt County, they can visit or call the Humboldt County Department of Health & Human Services at 1-877-410-8809 to ask about Disaster CalFresh. Anyone can apply online at http://benefitscal.org, however please remember that there is a 7 day window for applying for Disaster CalFresh, and interviews must be conducted face-to-face (not via phone). Therefore, applying in person at a county CalFresh office is the fastest way to ensure benefits within the 7 day window.
Is the Disaster CalFresh application available online?
For more details:
Additional information can be found at DisasterAssistance.gov
View this D-SNAP fact sheet published by the USDA.
D-SNAP is designed for situations where a large number of households have disaster-related expenses not considered by the regular program and where the need is so great that the vastly streamlined D-SNAP certification process is warranted. The State has the primary role for planning, requesting, and operating a D-SNAP from the Food & Nutrition Service (FNS). D-SNAP provides a full month's allotment to households who may not normally qualify for or participate in SNAP/CalFresh. The allotment for a household is equal to the maximum monthly allotment for the household size provided under regular SNAP/CalFresh. States supplement the regular SNAP/CalFresh benefits of ongoing households affected by the disaster to bring them up to the maximum allotment. D-SNAP applications are usually accepted for a period of seven days. Households receive 30 days worth of benefits, except in extraordinary circumstances. Verification rules are eased for the eligibility process during a disaster, application and interview are done immediately on site, and benefits will be granted on EBT cards. The brief eligibility interview is for verifying information presented on the application. An authorized representative can do this for the applicant, if needed. For each disaster, the State determines the exact number and location of application/issuance sites.
Additional Disaster Resources for Californians
View/download California Department of Social Services' Guide to Disaster Assistance Services for Californians, which provides detailed information about the types of federal, state, and local disaster assistance services available in California. There are no costs to apply for these programs. View the version of this same guide specific to immigrant Californians (in English) and here in Spanish.