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What’s The Weak Link In Your Food Supply Chain?

What’s the Weak Link in Your Food Supply Chain?

The supply chain is only as good as its weakest link during emergencies. The days of having food for your regular menu — plus a little extra — and having a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with vendors as the backup to bring items immediately may not work these days. Vendors can experience supply chain issues with products and supplies commonly used for emergencies, damage to their building or trucks, inaccessible roads, and staff shortages or furloughs. 

With the pandemic, the supply chain in the U.S. became an issue not only for items for our homes, but also for food service distributors. Healthcare facilities scrambled to change menus when items were not available, dealt with double-digit price increases for a number of items that were available, and had significant numbers of staff absent after testing positive or being quarantined. Facility emergency teams are taking a closer look at their needs and how to better be prepared before surveyors visit and cite the facility for a lack of appropriate planning.

The number of disaster and emergency situations across the country has been rising over the past 40 years. The U.S. has sustained 273 weather and climate disasters since 1980.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Centers for Environmental Information, the number of billion-dollar weather and climate disasters is rising1 and the average number per year is going up exponentially:

1980 – 1989 – 2.9 per year
1990 – 1999 – 5.3 per year
2000 – 2009 – 6.2 per year
 2010 – 2019 – 11.9 per year

Now the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the lives of people across the U.S. and the potential for synchronous emergencies needs to be considered when discussing emergency preparedness plans. The All-Hazards Approach needs to be reviewed. As a result of this review, a healthcare facility may very well need more than three or four days of food in their emergency supply.

Healthcare facilities need to have supplies on the premises to be self-sufficient for a longer time after an emergency. Review the specific regulations for your facility type and area.  Coordinate with the city, township, county, or state Emergency Management Teams for local recommendations and evaluate the specific number of days needed when “at least” or “a minimum of” is part of the regulation.

Now is the time to for action. Bolster the in-house emergency supplies for food and water. Don’t let your lack of emergency preparedness be your next disaster!

y Linda Eck-Mills, MBA, RDN, LDN, FADA, Regional Executive, Meals for All, Inc.

1. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters (2020). https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/, DOI: 10.25921/stkw-7w73

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