The news of another devastating tornado this past weekend stopped me in my tracks.
The people of Joplin, Mo., are now reeling in the aftermath of one of the worst tornadoes to ever strike a community. The twister did not discriminate -- homes, churches, hospitals, almost everything was reduced to shards and splinters. With more than 118 people now confirmed dead and hundreds injured, it will take a herculean effort to repair this historic town.
Ozarks Food Harvest, which is Feeding America's member food bank in Springfield, Mo., is responsible for serving 28 counties around the southwestern portion of the state, including the city of Joplin. The food bank's executive director, Bart Brown, has had an outpouring of support, but it's going to take a long-term, sustained effort to help the community recover.
"With no power in thousands of homes, the refrigerated and frozen food supplies of thousands of families have spoiled. The few stores that remain standing will remain closed for an uncertain time, leaving many people without their regular grocery option. These residents will depend on the food bank and other local resources to help them get back on their feet," said Bart. "After a disaster like this, almost everyone affected is at risk of living with hunger or on the brink of it at least for a short time."
So far, Feeding America and our food banks around Missouri and Kansas have been mobilizing resources to send to Bart's team for distribution in and around Joplin. More than $650,000 worth of emergency food has already been provided. But Bart believes that local distribution is going to be challenging. He mentioned that a number of the local agencies and pantries have either been destroyed or are left without power. Mobile pantry outreach teams will venture into remote areas that have been hit to make sure we're getting food to the people who need it throughout the region.
Feeding America's own national office staff member Rebekkah Lyman rushed to Joplin from Chicago after hearing her mom, niece and nephew were injured in the tornado. While they are recovering from their injuries, Rebekkah is reaffirming the need for national support.
"Everything has been leveled to the horizon, and it'll be some time before the power comes back on in many areas. Add to that, running water is hard to come by. The food from Feeding America and the Ozarks Food Bank are critical for this community's survival."
The damage from disasters lasts long after their stories fade from headlines. This response will require a long-term commitment to the people of Joplin -- a commitment that's already been made by the food bank members of Feeding America.
Feeding America is accepting donations for its relief efforts in Joplin.