On August 29, Hurricane Katrina, a category 4 storm with winds exceeding 130 miles per hour and a storm surge of well over 25 feet, slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast, utterly demolishing coastal Mississippi and ultimately taxing New Orleans' levees to their breaking point and beyond. Since the failure of those levees late that evening, much of the city of New Orleans has been under water, with businesses closed and hundreds of thousands of residents displaced to temporary shelters around the country.
The USDA announced it has delivered 80,000 pounds of food and infant formula products to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina. Truckloads of additional supplies are en route to affected communities. In addition to providing food and infant formula, USDA's Food and Nutrition Service is assisting disaster survivors by issuing emergency food stamps and distributing food packages directly to needy households. USDA will provide waivers to food stamp recipients so that they can purchase hot meals and expedite delivery of September food stamp benefits. USDA is also permitting schools to provide free meals to children in areas devastated by the hurricane. USDA is also reaching out to food and nutrition program recipients who have fled the affected area but are still in need of assistance.
Many food companies are donating money and/or products to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina: Nestle Waters North America Inc. has either delivered or committed for donation several million bottles of bottled water for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. The company has more bottled water available as relief agencies issue requests and identify staging areas.
The Coca-Cola Company, The Coca-Cola Foundation and Coca-Cola Bottlers across the U.S. through the Coca-Cola Bottlers Association are donating $5 million to support the relief and rescue efforts in communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Kellogg's Co. announced it will provide more than $500,000 in cash and product donations to assist America's Second Harvest. The company said seven truckloads of its products were en route and more are planned.
Kraft Foods will provide $1 million in food and cash grants.
Pilgrim's Pride Corp. announced it will match funds raised by its 40,000 employees up to $1 million to support the humanitarian efforts for victims of Hurricane Katrina through the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.
Campbell Soup Company will contribute more than $2 million of food products, including soup, beverages and baked snacks, to the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Campbell will also donate $25,000 and match employee donations up to $150,000.
Unilever will donate $1 million in cash to the Red Cross and Salvation Army and will donate $1.6 million worth of company products including soap, shampoo, detergent, peanut butter, soup, nutritional shakes and snack bars.
The National Restaurant Association issued the following statement in response to Hurricane Katrina and the devastating impact on restaurants and their employees in the affected areas:
"Our thoughts and prayers go to everyone who has suffered in all the areas impacted by Katrina. Sadly, many of our brothers and sisters in the industry have been deeply affected by the devastation of this storm," said Steven C. Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the association. "We will work closely with our state restaurant association partners in the region to assist them, our joint members and their communities with disaster relief efforts and help them get back to their lives and livelihoods after experiencing this immeasurable tragedy.
"Our industry has proven to be incredibly resilient after major disasters. This event is truly catastrophic. With our industry serving as the cornerstone of communities, the National Restaurant Association will do its part to offer support and rally other industry professionals and Americans nationwide to help our restaurant families and friends and all of the citizens in need in the Gulf Coast region."
According to The Deseret News, roughly 55,000 people worked in New Orleans' estimated 3,400 restaurants. Economists continue to weigh the potential impact upon food prices if the heavily utilized port of New Orleans remains closed for an extended period. As of this time, the city is essentially closed and is expected to remain so for months to come.