How public refrigerated warehousing operations help during emergency situations


THERE’S A GOOD CHANCE that some of the food items originally bound for the public school lunchrooms in peninsular Florida were recently diverted for a higher-priority purpose. There’s nothing to worry about, though. The lunchroom cupboards aren’t going bare. There are plenty of commodities in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) pipeline to replace it — and replace it in a hurry.

As mentioned in previous columns, Adams Cold Storage in Auburndale is one of many U.S. public refrigerated warehousing (PRW) operations that store and help to distribute frozen, refrigerated, and ambient foods for the USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP). In fact, more than six million pounds of NSLP commodities are expected to pass through our warehouse doors in this current school year alone — for school districts all across Florida.

As a service provider for the USDA and its assisting Florida agency, the Bureau of Food Distribution (part of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services), the understanding is that during emergency situations, our company can expect to get a call from emergency management officials to load out designated quantities of school-bound food to help feed people displaced by disaster. That notification came to us on October 5, as Hurricane Matthew was battering Haiti and heading toward Florida.

We were notified by the Florida Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee to identify and stage about 40 truckloads worth of food — enough to make about 600,000 meals — for shipment to multiple locations on Florida’s east coast. From those points, the food could be further distributed to strategically opened hurricane shelters, if needed. The food included ground beef, chicken, strawberry cups, canned peaches and pears, green beans, and cheese — the kind of products that require a kitchen and kitchen staff for preparation.

Feeding people in emergencies today is much more “calculated” than it used to be, and that’s a good thing. Gone are the days when food was taken straight to the local Salvation Army or similar charitable organization for distribution — with everyone hoping the products would arrive safely and timely. Today’s emergency response involves getting food in the right volumes to the right locations and in the fastest way possible so it doesn’t go to waste, so food safety is maximized, and so people in need don’t go hungry. Those of us in the PRW industry are proud to have a role in the process.

This column is sponsored by Adams Cold Storage, LLC.

CREDIT

column by BEN ADAMS, JR.

BIO: Ben Adams, Jr., is an owner and president of Adams Cold Storage, LLC, in Auburndale. He has been directly involved in citrus production, warehousing and distribution, as well as state and community support, since 1980. His facility incorporates about 200,000 square feet of multitemperature warehousing, with an extensive expansion project currently under way.