Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Local food banks play a critical role during disasters:

Today's guest blog entry is by Dr. J. Lee Pearson, director of special projects for the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina

The effort to increase preparedness for public health threats is an essential and timely activity. We know that the unique circumstances of a public health emergency would test preparedness models in a myriad of ways, challenging individuals, families and communities alike to be even more self-reliant when such events occur. This challenge will be the greatest for the most vulnerable among us -- underscoring the need to highlight vulnerable groups as a focus of our overall preparedness efforts.

Many entities serve to alleviate the needs of vulnerable populations on a perpetual basis, but their challenges in doing so are immense. Local food banks, as a prime example of such entities, reflect the collective force of numerous charitable resources working together to reduce the burdens of hunger and food insecurity. The services they provide are an essential part of the community, but that essential nature will become even greater when disaster strikes. The need for continuity of operations for such facilities is of paramount importance, as are the logistical and structural components that form an operable environment.

Although we are all prone to think of supporting local food banks when times are good and food is plentiful, we must also think of them when times are challenging. It is then that the needs of local food banks and those they serve will be greatest. We must learn to support our community food banks on a consistent basis, so that they can better address the ongoing needs of vulnerable populations -- especially in times of disaster, such as if there were an influenza pandemic or outbreak of another emerging infectious disease.

As we dedicate time to the observance of National Public Health Week and its theme of preparing vulnerable populations, we must recognize the unique needs of local food banks and the populations they serve. So, I encourage you to take the first step and become involved in supporting your local food bank and, in turn, support the effort to protect vulnerable populations.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is really important. I had never thought about the role that food banks would play in a pandemic type emergengy or what their needs would be. Thanks for posting this.