As national and grassroots efforts continue to help the people of Puerto Rico rebuild post-Hurricane Maria, one crucial area of aid is drawing criticism on social media.
MORE: Here’s How You Can Help Hurricane Maria Victims & Rebuild Puerto Rico
Residents and family members of locals are posting photos of the food packages being sent to the island, and the contents are pretty surprising. Instead of options like canned beans or veggies, rice or pasta, a lot of the boxes are full of snacks and junk food like Cheez-Its, Baby Ruth and Snickers bars and Air Heads.
— Sujei =) (@sujeilugo) November 10, 2017
My Parents received this box pic.twitter.com/GVJawMYyEg
— Glory Torres (@lanenaborikua) November 13, 2017
The same in Camino Nuevo, Yabucoa, last October 13. pic.twitter.com/MEHEzMdtRN
— Jorge Figueroa Loza (@jorgefloza) November 13, 2017
As Mitú reports, many are crediting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the bungled boxes in their Tweets, but apparently, they’re not the ones involved with food selection. The agency told Mitú the packages are put together by local agencies, including the Defense Logistics Agency, nongovernmental organizations and private contractors, and that FEMA only helps with distribution.
The agency’s spokesperson, Ron Roth, told Mitú: “FEMA’s contracting process identifies companies capable of providing several approaches to appropriately feeding disaster survivors. One of these approaches in Puerto Rico has used ‘snack packs’ previously ordered and stockpiled by the Defense Logistics Agency. These snacks are not meant to replace full meals.”
Roth continued, “Early on in the disaster, 18 school locations were set up to provide morning and noon meals seven days a week. This is in addition to the ongoing wide range of meals already being provided to survivors by the government of Puerto Rico, FEMA and the numerous volunteer agencies feeding Puerto Ricans across the island.
According to Roth, residents should be receiving full meals, in addition to the snacks, which are composed of starches, vegetables, and protein and should have more than 700 calories and “be culturally appropriate for Puerto Rico with proper utensils.”
FEMA urges people who haven’t received full meals to contact local officials or FEMA at 1-800-621-3362.