Community and Public Health Nutrition
Objectives: Following a Presidential Disaster Declaration, federal agencies are supposed to work together to align food choices for disaster feeding to meet Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). Federal recovery efforts were criticized for providing foods of poor nutritional quality during their relief efforts to Puerto Rico (PR). This analysis documents the nutritional quality of Federal food commodities in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in PR.
Methods: For 10 consecutive days during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, we conducted structured observations and content analysis of photographs of federal food commodities received in a Puerto Rican municipality’s food distribution center. The municipality was chosen because it sustained significant infrastructure destruction and the average annual household income is 20% of the upper limit intake per day of that nutrient.
Results: We captured data from 159 food items (of which 110 were unique). Of those food items, 11% fit into the 'candies & chips' category (e.g. M&m’s milk chocolate candies; Twizzlers Twist candies). 100% of items belonging to the ‘fruit’ category had exceeding content of added sugars (e.g. sweetened fruit cups, applesauce, jellies). 83% of 'vegetable’ items and 55% of 'protein’ items exceeded content of sodium. 36% of foods categorized under 'dairy' exceeded added sugar and 36% exceeded the saturated fat upper limits.
Conclusions: Results suggest that the combination of foods received by the federal response during the disaster relief efforts of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico were unfit to create a healthy eating pattern as per the DGA. In view of the current challenges posed to global food systems (climate change, terrorists attacks, to name just a few), it is critical that we re-examine how to meet community nutritional needs and ensure the health of families, especially the most vulnerable ones, during disasters.