My brother, Brian, runs the Houston Food bank. His house flooded on Sunday, but he’s been working full days coordinating with the government and other charities to get food where it’s needed. Those thousands of people sheltered at the Convention Center? Cots and blankets are the Red Cross. Getting food to them is the Food Bank. It’s an immense job, because there are shelters scattered all over the city, all of which are in urgent situations.
There are no guide books for “How Food Banks Can Prepare for Hurricanes,” but Brian does have the benefit of learning from the guy who ran the New Orleans Food Bank during Katrina. That guy would be … Brian. Yep, literally a month before his new gig at Houston started, Katrina hit while he was still running the New Orleans operation.
I hate that Brian has to deal with this again, because it’s rough on him. Honestly, though, he’s the best man for the job, so it’s good that he’s there. Sure, he’s my brother and I may be biased, but he’s really good at this. For starters, the largest food bank in the country isn’t New York, L.A., or Chicago. It’s Houston, which wasn’t even top ten when he first took the reigns. Brian did that. The Houston Food Bank is thankfully well stocked, and with the new facility he had built, it’s ultra-efficient. That’s going to pay off during this next few weeks.
It’s been fascinating talking with him about how they prepared for this. Knowing that access might be limited if streets flooded, he had some staffers camp out 24/7 at the Food Bank, so no matter how flooded the streets got (the food bank is essentially an island right now), the food bank would still be operational. Food gets out using high water trucks and if necessary, helicopters.
Pallets were already staged ahead of time, so if flooding happened, loading would be fast. A few years ago, when they built the new facility, they even planned for disasters by putting in enormous fuel tanks and generators, and they pay extra, like hospitals do, for priority fueling and maintenance services. They even maintain a supply of gas for employees, so the staff will be able to get to work when gas stations are closed. It sounds like a crazy extravagance … until a disaster occurs. Like I said, there’s no guide book for this, but as Brian said, “This isn’t my first rodeo.”
I could go on, but I’ve already rambled on more than most people probably care to read, so I’ll get to my point. (Aside from bragging about my brother. I’m so f-ing proud of what he’s doing.)
What I love about the picture I posted above (photo credit to Rick Wilking of Reuters) is that there’s a natural disaster in the background, but the power of the human spirit is in the foreground. In times like this, people want to help out. It’s a human quality we all have. Two guys could have gotten that woman into the boat, but six showed up for her. How cool is that? Politics may have divided us, but at our core, we’re in this together.
I don’t live near Houston, so I’m not in that picture. I can’t hand out blankets, I can’t load food onto trucks, and I can’t help people onto boats. What I can do, though, is help pay for the gas to get food from the food bank to the shelters. (You knew that’s where I was headed with this, right? 😉 )
Hurricane Harvey is going to be particularly expensive for the charities that help out with disasters, so this is a great time to help out. The Houston Food Bank is obviously at the top of Judith’s and my list, but there are many other organizations that are equally worthy, so I’ve listed a few below. Having had a front row seat watching Brian’s career, I can tell you for sure that your donation will be very much appreciated.
Houston Food Bank
Food Bank of Corpus Christi
Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund