By Erin McBride
Editors Note: Erin McBride, a friend of Emergency Essentials, was asked to share her experiences with preparedness while in the very midst of a major tropical storm. As a person dedicated to the health and welfare of those less fortunate, her perspective is turned outward, focusing less upon her own well-being, and more upon the interests of those she serves.
We live in Southwestern Virginia. We’ve already had one major flooding incident in our town this week, and we are bracing for more. It has rained every day for seven straight days. And now we are in the path for Hurricane Joaquin. We are expecting non-stop rain starting Friday morning, and the hurricane hitting us on Monday. Our ground is already saturated, and the rivers and creeks are overflowing. It is inevitable that our town is going to flood this week.
This is a deceptive rainstorm we are facing. We’ve all been warned to treat it like we would a major snowstorm. We are not expecting massive thunder or lightning, or even high force winds. The rain will be a constant, steady downpour, not too heavy, maybe even at times fairly light. But with the saturated earth, and overflowing waterways, our roads will flood, power will go out, and homes are in danger of flooding as well.
I work part-time for a local non-profit that provides access to free healthcare for the poorest residents of our community. Most of our clients are single mothers with multiple children, with no job, or father in sight. They depend upon programs like food stamps, and charities like ours, to provide for their children.
Today our families were invited to come in to receive free dental care. As our doors opened many families began to call in to cancel their appointments. They explained that it was the first of the month, and they had just received their food stamps. They needed to hurry up and get to the grocery store.
When I heard that families were canceling their much-needed, and much-wanted dental care to go grocery shopping I was confused. Why couldn’t they go to the store after the dentist?
Someone more compassionate and astute than I explained that food stamps only buy certain foods. There is a storm coming and the first items in the store to go will be the milk, eggs, bread, and cereal – the exact things that food stamps can buy. Our clients needed to get to the store before these items were gone, because they couldn’t buy other items.
I went to the store after work and realized just how right my co-worker was. I looked around and noticed that the shelves were barely stocked, and customers were quickly buying up the obvious basics.
It was a very humbling moment for me. Families were giving up precious healthcare to get milk and bread. The poorest of families couldn’t get to the store yesterday when the shelves were full. They had to wait for their food stamps. Meanwhile, individuals like me, that didn’t need to wait for the first of the month, and could have better prepared in advance, were keeping these families from getting what they needed.
It made me think twice about which items I purchased. If I bought a loaf of bread it may keep a needy family from getting it. I have a generator I can pull out and use if necessary (I truly hope it doesn’t come to that). If that happens, I will be able to cook for myself. But a family on food stamps won’t have a generator if they lose power. Food stamps don’t always buy fruits and vegetables, but I can. I made sure I got items I could eat raw, without the stove, oven, or refrigerator. A family that can’t buy fruits and vegetables needs the bread for sandwiches when the power goes out. I left the bread at the store.
Compassion and consideration for those less fortunate than me – one more reason to better plan my food storage and emergency preparations for the future.