Humboldt County can experience numerous types of natural disasters, including earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and fires. As first responders, a number of different types of emergency personnel are poised to respond all over the county to such events. However, supplies, equipment and staffing may be severely limited to respond to all emergency situations based on the scope, nature and location of the disaster. That’s where Humboldt County COAD (Community Organizations Active in Disaster) comes into play. Food for People has been an active member since its inception in 1992.
COAD is a partnership of local organizations, government agencies, and community groups committed to disaster preparedness, education, response, and recovery. COAD facilitates communication, collaboration, and coordination amongst these entities.
In the event of a disaster, Food for People will take a leading role in the procurement, storage and distribution of food in affected areas around Humboldt County. Through partnership with other local nonprofit organizations, and at times with the assistance of the Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services (HCOES), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), American Red Cross and Feeding America, Food for People will be responsible for obtaining and directing food resources countywide.
A History of Food for People's Disaster Relief
Food for People, the food bank for Humboldt County, sent staff and a cargo van to assist partner food bank in Santa Rosa, Redwood Empire Food Bank (REFB) during the October 2017 wildfires. The REFB staff worked around the clock to respond to food needs in Santa Rosa, including providing critical food to shelters throughout Sonoma County for evacuees displaced by the fires. They also worked to ensure that those who needed food assistance before the fires were still able to access their help.
As Food for People executive director Anne Holcomb stated, “This is about partnership. Many of our colleagues are impacted right now, and we want to do everything we can to support them, because we know they would do the same for us.” Several of the REFB’s staff and their families had already evacuated or were in the process of evacuating their homes due to the active nature of this extreme fire event. All were and still are coping with deep loss among family, friends and the community. Food for People’s Mobile Produce Pantry Coordinator headed south to Santa Rosa to offer relief to the REFB’s warehouse staff, driving a Food for People cargo van full of food donated by Eureka Grocery Outlet.
Food for People's Volunteer & Direct Services Manager headed down to REFB several days later to relieve our Mobile Produce Pantry Coordinator, helping to train an influx of volunteers and devise systems to help the donation processing and volunteer workflow operate smoothly.
In addition to helping out a fellow food bank in need, Food for People staff brought back important knowledge and experience to help Food for People further develop its existing Emergency Food & Disaster Response Plan for Humboldt County. Should a major disaster strike Humboldt County, Food for People will play a major role as part of the first line of community food relief before outside relief organizations will be able to reach our rural area. In some scenarios this could take weeks. Food for People would work with its network of 17 food pantries and many partner organizations to distribute food throughout the county to those experiencing hardship.
Above: Food for People responds for inland wildfire evacuees temporarily housed in a hotel on the coast.
Disaster CalFresh is a program that provides immediate food assistance for victims of natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, or fires. People who are not usually eligible for CalFresh can qualify for Disaster CalFresh if they meet the criteria.