Doubling the capacity to feed a country in an emergency

Hunger is real in Puerto Rico, particularly after Hurricane María.With numerous roads blocked, no electricity, very little water, limited access to ports and devastated crops, many people found themselves lacking food, and most basic necessities. Easy access to supplies was very difficult. And for the needy and the sick it was nearly impossible. That is when the Puerto Rico’s Food Bank came into action.

During the bleakest period of the emergency, which extended for weeks and in some areas lasted months, Puerto Rico’s Food Bank, a nonprofit, was able to provide for food, water and staples such as basic hygiene items like tooth paste, soap, adult and baby diapers and cleaning products. For the first nine months of the emergency period, ending in June of 2018, the Food Bank was able to distribute approximately 18.2 million pounds of food, the equivalent to over 12 million meals, water as well as basic staples.

The Food Bank has operated over the last 30 years with donations from the food industry and other private and government organizations and individuals. During the crisis, after Hurricanes Irma and María, donations were received from many corners of the world. United for Puerto Rico was one of the Food Bank’s first donors. The Food Bank received $100,000 for distribution of basic provisions to Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities.

Yet, those dire months also exposed the limitations of the Food Bank’s installations. The building, located in Bayamón, was not designed for the handling of the numerous relief operations or the efficient delivery and distribution of supplies. As the initial crisis was addressed, the Board of Trustees of the Food Bank realized the limitations of its current site.

“We turned to United for Puerto Rico with a proposal to purchase a building that could increase our capacity as well as allow for a more efficient logistics operation,” said Denise Santos, President of the Puerto Rico Food Bank.

“Hurricane María opened our eyes to our isolation as an Island during a catastrophe such as Hurricane Maria. Therefore, when the Puerto Rico Food Bank requested a second grant to purchase a more suitable building for their mission, the Board immediately saw the merits of the proposal,” said Mariely Rivera, Executive Director of United for Puerto Rico.

With a $2 million grant, the Food Bank was able to complete the purchase of the new building, located in the Country Club Industrial Park in Carolina, a short distance from Puerto Rico’s main international airport. Denise explained that the design allows for a more efficient operation, providing for 30,600 square feet of storage plus 10,250 square feet of administrative space. The warehouse adds 33% of space, yet the design provides for doubling the capacity by including more racks and bigger coolers and freezer. The receiving area is also larger with a more spacious staging area and an ampler store. The volunteers will also benefit from a more comfortable working area, which will be air conditioned.The design provides for a corridor from one end to the other that provides for easy access to all aisles and racks.

The new location will take six months to complete as the organization is currently in the midst of a capital campaign to complete the process.

“For United for Puerto Rico, this is a legacy project. We have enhanced the capacity to feed people in an emergency and during the recovery process,” added Mariely.

For more information on Puerto Rico’s Food Bank, you may visit https://bancodealimentopr.org/ and for United for Puerto Rico, please visit www.unitedforpuertorico.com/.

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