Debris and water covered the ground, collapsed structures lined every road, and the storm was blowing through at an excruciatingly slow pace. Families lost everything and feared they would not be able to provide their loved ones with the food they needed to sustain their health. That’s when people from all over the United States decided to join together to help.
Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas Coastal Bend and surrounding areas from late August to early September 2017. The victims of Harvey lost their homes, loved ones and most of their belongings. The devastation was depicted all over the news and covered social media timelines. Seeing their fellow Americans in a time of need prompted individuals and organizations to step in and help.
Agriculture Lends a Helping Hand
The Texas Peanut Producers Board in Lubbock, Texas, stepped in almost immediately and put together the Peanut Butter for Texas peanut butter drive to benefit those affected by Hurricane Harvey. TPPB worked together with Peanut Proud, a non-profit organization of the U.S. Peanut Industry, to make Peanut Butter for Texas highly successful.
“We just wanted to do something, especially because it was [our] own state,” said Shelly Nutt, TPPB executive director. “We were really like, ‘We’ve got to do something.’ And we are in the peanut industry.”
TPPB began putting on peanut butter drives in 2008 in cooperation with food banks around the state. Nutt credits the success of each peanut butter drive to the compassion and generosity of the locals in their area and the peanut industry as a whole.
“It’s amazing to me that when a crisis hits, our country comes together,” Shelly said.“We all just have to come together and take care of each other.”
Food insecurity is a major issue when a natural crisis, like Hurricane Harvey, hits. Often times, many of the victims who are affected by the crisis have no previous experience of being food insecure. Organizations like TPPB, Peanut Proud and state food banks work hard to alleviate the insecurity so victims can have one less issue to worry about.
It’s amazing to me that when crisis hits, our country comes together
The money raised from the Peanut Butter for Texas peanut butter drive was put toward purchasing pallets of peanut butter to donate to food banks around the affected areas of Texas. The U.S. peanut industry raised approximately $100,000 to benefit the victims of Hurricane Harvey. However, the true value of the combined donations amounted to much more. Southern Ag Carriers donated freight to get the peanut butter to its final destinations, and peanut butter manufactures discounted the price of the peanut butter that was purchased with the donated money.
“If you [figured] out the true value of all of it,” Shelly said, “I would say we have a quarter of a million dollars, probably, invested in peanut butter [donations] just to Texas.”
Why Peanut Butter?
Peanut butter has many qualities that make it simple to eat. It is asty, and nutritional. According to David Weaver, CEO of the South Plains Food Bank, peanut butter is always on their list of donations that are welcomed.
“Peanut Butter is always on the top of our list of items we like to use in emergency food boxes, not only for disasters, but regularly, too,” Weaver said. “It’s a good source of protein, and most people like it. So, we encourage that kind of donation.”
Peanut butter is high in protein, which makes it perfect for emergency boxes that are sent out in situations like hurricanes and natural disasters. It contains 8 grams of protein in a typical serving, which is equal to two tablespoons. Peanut butter is also a shelf-stable product that requires little to no preparation, which are qualities appealing to those who are without homes, appliances and running water.
“If we can help people that are hungry by giving them a shelf-stable, protein-packed food product that doesn’t require refrigeration [and] does not require cooking or even a utensil really,” Shelly said. “That just makes sense to me.”
In all, Peanut Proud, TPPB and the U.S. peanut industry donated three truckloads of peanut butter totally 100,000 jars to San Antonio and Houston food banks. Two of the truckloads were immediately sent off to the Houston Food Bank just days after it reopened its doors to help those affected by the massive flooding in the city. TPPB was also concerned about the smaller, more obscure areas affected but were not recognized in the news, so, they sent one truckload to the San Antonio Food Bank, which was distributing emergency supplies and food to smaller areas that had been affected.
“Our concern was that there were so many smaller outlying areas that were going to be forgotten about, but San Antonio was taking care of them,” Shelly said.
The Food Bank’s Role
Like many other organizations, TPPB worked closely with food banks to get food and donations distributed to hurricane victims. Food banks play a large role in emergency and disaster care because they act as a middle man between people who want to help and those who need help. Food banks process donations and assemble food boxes in order to bypass the hassle that volunteers face when random donations show up without knowledge of their condition.
“Volunteers on the front end don’t have to worry about if the food is safe or if the clothes are in good condition,” Weaver said. “Then, they can just take it off and hand it to a family that is in need.”
In the weeks following Harvey’s destructive landfall, thousands of victims have received assistance in the form of food donations, emergency boxes from food banks, and support from people of all walks of life. Nutt says the U.S. peanut industry is proud to be able to promote their product, educate others about the nutritional value of a simple nut and offer support to those in need.
To hear more from Shelly Nutt about peanut butter drives, watch this video!