When Hurricane Sandy pounded the Eastern seaboard leaving millions without power, the food supply chains, from farm to fork, were inevitably affected. Crops and livestock across the Caribbean and United States were adversely affected, with some producers warning of short-term shortages and the Farm Services Agency of the USDA issuing $15.5 million in disaster funds for counties affected by Sandy. Plants and processors struggled to keep running and product moving as power outages, flooding, and damage across the region made food distribution difficult. Grocery stores flooded, resulting in the disposal of contaminated foods. Other retailers lost power, having to shut stores after suffering multi-day power outages. The problems were exacerbated by the shortage of fuel available around the NYC area.
Despite these challenges, we did not see reports of food shortages. Large cities such as New York City generally only have 2-3 days of food on hand. For this reason, the movement of food was a critical part of the Sandy recovery. New York City's Office of Emergency Management kept food supply companies at the decision making table. If needed, trucks carrying food into the city were allowed to caravan with police escorts along bridges and roads closed to the general public.
While the storm is not projected to have long term impacts on the food supply chain, the initial impact brought various groups together to work towards maintaining a steady food supply in the short-term. Anheuser-Busch switched a beer line in a Georgia plant to cans of potable water that was distributed to those in need of water. Damaged restaurants are slower at reopening, consequently decreasing food demand through the supply chain. Particularly for things like fresh fish which forces fisherman to adjust their supply. Additionally, the USDA issued waivers for SNAP participants to temporarily purchase hot foods with their benefits as well as reimburse participants who lost food in the storm.
The lack of a food shortage in New York City and the response on behalf of millions of people and companies after hurricane Sandy is a testament to the hard work and emphasis that local, state, and national emergency programs have placed on getting basic needs such as food and water to people. For more about Sandy relief efforts visit the Red Cross.