Food and Food System Resources

Several resources are available for food in everyday situations as well as before, during, and after emergencies and disasters. These resources are for individuals, households, governments, tribes, institutions, communities, and community-based and feeding organizations.

Individuals and Households

The US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (USDA FNS) operates programs to help eligible people get food.

Preparing for an Emergency or Disaster

  • Eating a healthy diet is an important part overall health and well-being, including during emergency. Find tips to help you build a nutritious emergency food supply.
  • MyPlate Start simple was created for pandemics and can be used to prepare for other situations. Build a Food Kit includes suggested food and supplies for a food kit, along with tips on food safety and cooking without power. Available in multiple languages, such as Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
  • Disaster Planning: Infant and Child Feeding offers tips for breastfeeding, which is the best infant feeding option in a natural disaster.

During and After an Emergency or Disaster

Hunger Hotline

1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE for Spanish for information about meal sites, food banks, and other services near you.

Hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern Time Monday through Friday.

Or text 97779 with a question that contains a keyword such as “food” or “meals”.

The hotline is managed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Tools to Help Find Food
  • Find meals for students during school summer vacation Through USDA’s summer meal programs, approved sites serve meals to kids up to age 18 at no cost. Find directions, hours of operation, and contact information.
  • Meals on Wheels provides meals for individuals with diminished mobility who are generally 60 and older, although age requirements can vary. Find a provider online.
  • Food Finder is an interactive map of food pantries and free food assistance programs.
  • The USDA Local Food Directories allows users to search for a farmers’ market, community supported agriculture (CSA), or other local food businesses by zip code, product, payment method, and other criteria.

Governments, Tribes, Communities, and Practitioners

To identify and support people with food insecurity:

  • Food and Nutrition Security State and National Profiles identifies national data sources, services, and programs to strengthen state food and nutrition security programs, policies and practices, and infrastructure.
  • Survey Tools offers screening tools for food insecurity, such as the US Household Food Security Survey Module with 18 items, and the Short Form of the Food Security Survey Module with 6 items. Many non-English translations are available.
  • The Hunger Vital Sign [PDF-1.01MB] is a validated, 2-question food insecurity screening tool based on the US Household Food Security Survey Module. Health care providers, social service providers, community-based outreach workers, teachers, and others can use this tool to identify people with food insecurity. It is available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Korean, Nepali, Russian, Somalian, Spanish, Swahili, and Vietnamese.
  • Clinical Linkages [PDF-226KB] is a tool for identifying and addressing food insecurity for adults in the clinical setting. A positive food insecurity screen can be coded in the electronic medical record and patients connected with eligible food sources.

For older adults, the Administration for Community Living Nutrition and Aging Resource Center offers:

For rural communities, the Rural Health Information Hub Topic Guide provides access to publications; maps and websites; news and events; funding; organizations; and more. For example:

Before, During, and After a Disaster or Emergency

Disaster Resources from USDA FNS:

Pandemic Planning resources from USDA FNS:

Extension Disaster Education Network is a collaborative multi-state effort by Cooperative Extension Services across the country to improve the delivery of services to communities affected by disasters.

Institutions and Organizations Serving and Distributing Food

Delivering bag of food

Food Service Guidelines are standards for healthier food and beverages and food service operations in worksite and community settings, such as hospitals, stadiums, and recreation centers.

Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities was originally developed for use in federal facilities, but it can also be used in public and private settings to improve access to healthier foods and beverages.

Nutrition in Food Banking Toolkit[PDF-17.2MB] helps the charitable food sector better understand and meet nutrition needs of community members with food insecurity. The toolkit’s three sections can serve as standalone resources:

Cooking for Groups: A Volunteer’s Guide to Food Safety helps volunteers safely prepare food and serve large groups. Available in English [PDF-1.87MB] and Spanish [PDF-1.56MB].

How to Pack a Balanced Pantry Bag [PDF-191KB] includes information for following MyPlate nutrition recommendations, including amounts of food to provide for specific meals.

Before, During, and After a Disaster or an Emergency

Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies (IYCF-E) Toolkit helps emergency preparedness and response personnel, families, and the public ensure that children are fed safely.

  • The IYCF-E Social Media Toolkit contains ready-to-go messages for posting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to promote information and resources related to infant and young child feeding in preparation for or during an emergency.

Food Safety Emergency Response Pocket Guide, available in English and Spanish, helps child nutrition program operators respond to emergencies.

Multi-Agency Feeding Plan Template [PDF-2.8MB] provides guidance and suggested procedures for developing a disaster feeding plan. It can be used by any jurisdiction, including states, tribal nations, counties or parishes, and municipal emergency management agencies.

Hospital Emergency Food Supply Planning Guidance and Toolkit from the California Hospital Association provides guidance to hospitals in planning for and documenting emergency food supplies, as mandated by regulatory requirements. Hospital food services directors, registered dietitians, and emergency planners can use the toolkit for joint planning.

Peer Learning

See examples of how governments, communities, organizations, and practitioners have supported food and nutrition security before, during, and after disasters and emergencies.

Case Study Library offers reports and best practice articles from FEMA’s areas of expertise.

The Local and Regional Food Systems Response to COVID-19 resource includes:

Reimagining Hunger Responses in Times of Crisis [PDF-45.7MB] offers insights from case examples and a survey of Indian Country communities’ food access during COVID-19. Includes recommendations for strengthening agriculture infrastructure to support Native-led agriculture and food sovereignty.

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