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Texans run out of food as weather crisis disrupts supply chain




(TEXAS TRIBUNE) – The Weather Hell States Week began with a Stack of 133 cars outside of Fort Worth. A winter storm like no Texas has ever seen soon followed, and seven days later, millions are without electricity and reliable water.

And now the Texans are running out of food. From farm to fork, freezing temperatures and power outages are disrupting the food supply chain that people depend on every day.

Across the state, people are depleting the supplies they had stored and losing more as items start to spoil in dark refrigerators. Some store their leftover rations in coolers outside, and trips to the grocery store often do little to replenish pantries.

There was no meat, eggs and most of the milk left before I left, Austin resident Cristal Porter said of her local target which she visited on Monday. The lines were wrapped around the store when we arrived. The shelves were almost completely clear for potatoes, meat, eggs and some dairy products.

Two days later, one of Porters’ neighbors went to that same target, and the store was completely out of food, with no signs of additional shipping or employees restocking the shelves.

With grocery stores across the state closed for lack of power, supermarkets that remain open have seen supplies dwindle, with shortages spilling over to pantries that rely on surplus groceries to keep their own shelves stocked.

Meanwhile, fruit and vegetable crops in the Rio Grande Valley have frozen in what The Produce News described like a Valentine’s Day massacre. School districts of Fort Worth in Houston have halted meal distributions to students over the next few days, and Texas Department of Agriculture commissioner Sid Miller said dairy farmers in the state were paying $ 8 million in milk every day. because they couldn’t get it to the dairies.

Celia Cole, CEO of anti-hunger organization Feeding Texas, said eight food banks so far have asked the state for more help to feed their communities. Several Feeding Texas-affiliated food banks have also started providing food to emergency warming shelters in major cities across the states.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Central Food Bank of Texas canceled its scheduled deliveries Thursday to Austin and Rockdale.

The food bank fleet, equipment, facilities and operations have been affected by the extremely low temperatures, and dangerous road conditions are preventing our staff and volunteers from reaching our building safely, the organization said. in a media alert. These conditions also prevent us from distributing food safely.

Pantries also depend on donations from retail stores and grocery chains like Kroger and HEB, so when shelves are empty in stores, there is less to share with pantries, Cole added.

For Texas residents, disruptions to the food supply chain, often combined with continued power outages, mean consuming non-perishable canned goods or leftover produce, like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. . Porter has used a camping stove to prepare hot meals since she lost her electricity, while others have resorted to heating their food in the fireplace. Andrez Rodriguez at Mission told the Texas Tribune that he has been without power for more than 80 straight hours now and that he has to throw out most of the supplies left in his fridge before going to his brothers for a hot meal. .

I only come to sleep at my house to make sure nothing is stolen, Rodriguez said.

Residents of the state also took to social media to share their stories of struggling to find food or an open grocery store. Wes Wilson, producer for KXAN News in Austin, tweeted a video of the downtown Austin fast food takeout queue on Wednesday afternoon and said there was a significant food shortage in that city at the moment.

Meanwhile, officials said on Wednesday that long-term disruption to states’ food supply could pose even more problems. Miller said Texas cattle ranchers were running out of food, while a lack of available natural gas had caused chickens and calves to die from the cold.

All the milk processing plants are full, they can’t have enough electricity to run, and if they can, they can’t get enough natural gas to pasteurize the milk, Miller said. The shelves of grocery stores are therefore practically empty. There is no dairy flowing to Kroger or HEB or places like that, so as bad as when COVID hit, could possibly get worse.

Citrus and vegetable farms in the Rio Grande Valley are also predicting massive losses. Dale Murden, president of Texas Citrus Mutual, said 60% of the region’s grapefruit harvest and 100% of the late orange harvest will be lost. With the area producing 230,000 tonnes of grapefruit per year, farmers in the valley expect to lose around 138,000 tonnes of this harvest.

There are also 40 different vegetable varieties grown in the region, including cilantro, kale, and dill. These will also be affected by the storm.

I would say if you are looking for citrus from Texas, [the effect] is going to be immediate, Murden said. If you’re looking for Texas veg, this will be immediate.

Between the current pressure on grocery stores and the potential for massive damage to the states agricultural sector, this storm could hamper access to food for weeks to come. Miller and Cole stressed that it was impossible to know the extent of the losses until the electricity returns, but the food supply will continue to run out unless farmers and stores recover electricity soon.

They’ve been very, very hard hit in the agriculture industry, usually by the pandemic, so they’re already in trouble, Cole said. And so I think that while the impact if the power is restored quickly might not be huge in absolute terms, it is hitting an industry that is already reeling from the pandemic.

Disclosure: Feeding Texas, HEB, and Texas Citrus Mutual have financially supported the Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and sponsors. Financial support plays no role in Tribunes journalism. Find a suit list of them here.

Copyright 2021 Texas Tribune. All rights reserved.

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