Barbara Craig is no stranger to disaster. As program director at the Scott Valley Emergency Food Pantry, she has a decade of wildfire seasons under her belt. So when the McKinney wildfire displaced more than 2,000 of her neighbors, she knew her organization would once again be called on to provide crucial community support.
But this fire season, it didn’t feel like they were providing that support alone.
Earlier this year, we told you about how your support enabled us to improve our plans to fulfill our role as Feeding America’s West Coast disaster hub. As wildfires displaced thousands of our neighbors in the North State this summer, the plans and partnerships we made helped ensure that huger-fighting agencies on the ground could immediately spring into action.
“These food boxes are so much better than what we get!”
-Firefighter at McKinney fire.
Before fire season began, our warehouse volunteers packed more than 20,000 Ready, Set Meals boxes. Each meal box contains enough nonperishable, ready-to-eat food to feed one person for a full day, as well as water and a mask to inhibit smoke inhalation.
About 5,000 meal boxes were deployed to sealed, weatherproof containers around Northern California, so food would be available even if road closures cut off our usual supply routes. When fires ignited, partners like Scott Valley Emergency Food Pantry were able to quickly get food and water to those who needed it. More supplies were trucked north as needed.
As the fire spread and displaced more of her neighbors, Barbara says the meal boxes were something concrete that evacuees could appreciate in a time of so many uncertainties.
“I had a couple friends that were mandated to evacuate and they were so distraught,” she recalls. “It’s an unknown, and that one box of food was a blessing for them. It was a small part, but it was something.”
“The people were extremely appreciative with what they found in these boxes. They felt special, like someone cared about them when they opened the box.”
-Great Northern Services
So far, the Food Bank has distributed 100 pallets of water and more than 8,000 Ready, Set Meals boxes to our partners in wildfire-affected areas this year.
We also worked with Raley’s and other partners to source more water, shelf-stable food and gift cards. These supplies assisted second responders at the McKinney fire, as well as those at disasters like the Six Rivers Fire in Humboldt County and the Mosquito Fire – the largest wildfire in California this year.
For Barbara, supplies weren’t the only benefit of a partnership with the Food Bank. Many of the local relief organizations working with us through Feeding America reached out to each other for the first time, banding together to share water and volunteer hours.
“Our pantry is usually just working on its own, trying to do the best that it can for these people that have been taken out of their homes,” Barbara says. Now, she and her counterparts are staying in touch.
“That support is still there, it hasn’t left. Just because the fire is contained now doesn’t mean we don’t support each other.”