ACEFCS Community Food Storage
The Alaskan Community Emergency Food Cache System (ACEFCS- “Ace Facs”)
Community Emergency Food Storage and Management
aka Alaskan Community Emergency Food Cache System (ACEFCS)
By Darren Snyder, UAF Cooperative Extension Service
Customary supply line disruptions are common in Alaska due to its relative isolation and extreme weather cycles and events. Major earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and pandemics are among the possible causes of potentially disastrous disruptions .1 Unfortunately, individuals, communities, aid organizations and the state and federal government are challenged to respond to Alaska food supply disruptions on anything more than localized and individual community scale.2,3 The disaster most appropriate to consider when deciding how this information is useful to the reader is on the scale of a massive earthquake in the pacific northwest which disrupts the ability of shipments from Seattle area ports for a period of weeks or months and would affect not only the whole state of Alaska, but also the ability of federal agencies to deliver aid from their principle NW supply site in Idaho because of the condition of local infrastructure and competing demands in the pacific northwest.
The program introduced in this publication is called ACEFCS "Acefacs" for Alaska Community Emergency Food Cache System. It is an opportunity for community level preparedness which acknowledges and addresses the limitations of the current methods for making sure there is enough food to eat during and after disasters. Current methods rely entirely on individual preparedness or state and federal level disaster responses and do not have community level planning for intentional food supply levels. This publication is intended for borough, village, city, tribal and organizational leaders to make plans and develop a system in response to their own community’s needs. This is by no means a recommendation to replace any current individual, State and Federal preparedness efforts. The training and guidance provided to individual Alaskans to prepare for emergencies through the UAF Extension, the State of Alaska, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Red Cross and others is essential because we are all better off when more individuals are prepared and therefore there is less burden on collective resources during a disaster.
Emergency Food Storage: Who is doing it?
The importance of food storage is not a new concept. Ancient people have used root cellars and preservation techniques from drying to pickling to more recently, canning and freezing to keep food through scarce times for both planned (winter) and unplanned (disasters) events. We have dealt with hunger through the millennia, but intentionally keeping food stocks on hand in the United States is currently considered an individual’s responsibility and communities have not taken it on as a collective responsibility. Instead they have, for the most part, handed the collective responsibility to the federal government and aid organizations. This has lent to the survivalist, “prepper” mentality of “every man for himself” and excepting some religious communities, it is an individual effort. In 2013, the State of Alaska took steps to keep some emergency food stocks in Anchorage and Fairbanks as is explained below.
Where is the food in Alaska during an emergency?
During disasters and in the recovery stage just after the first life threatening needs are responded to, food which does not luckily happen to be in stock in the community must be transported in post disaster conditions which, at best, takes precious time and extensive resources, at worst, food is unable to be delivered.
The readiness of aid organizations to support community hunger needs in disasters can be easily overestimated. The terms “Food Bank” and “Soup Kitchen” and even "Food Warehouses" says to many people, including emergency response managers, that there is food banked and available in case of emergency. The truth is that the operations that serve the needy on a day to day basis have finite (many times inadequate) supplies to serve the clients they have under regular conditions let alone the increase demand if/when supply lines are disrupted and the number of people demanding service is simultaneously increased multifold. Federal sources such as the "warehouses of food" from which school lunch programs are distributed, already have designated destinations (mouths to feed) which are only stocked according to the "just in time" distribution system which all commercial outlets adhere to for simple economic reasons. To keep from “taking food from the mouth of babes” during large scale, statewide disasters, we would not have the luxury of using the stockpiles of one region of Alaska to feed another region.
Other organizations such as the Red Cross, whom some think would have food supplies available, do not have food reserves themselves. They can develop contracts with commercial food establishments to have a priority as a customer for foods that are in stock at the time of the request but have no control over stock levels or the food itself until it is sold to them. These relief organizations do have vital roles in preparation, distribution and service capacities, but are not a source for food in a disaster.
Starting in 2013, the State of Alaska was in the process of developing a Strategic Catastrophic Disaster Food Reserve of meals to last 7 days for 20,000 people in both Anchorage and Fairbanks, an action supported by both legislative and executive branches of the State government. Due to the dramatic drop in State revenue in 2014, the 2015 State Budget dropped the $4.9 million previously dedicated to the Reserve. Unfortunately, even if the Reserve does get funded eventually, the possibility for Alaskans outside of the two population centers seeing those reserves when there are transportation problems getting food to Alaska is remote at best. In Alaska, using the standard of 7 days of food and supplies recommendations for individuals, which has been proven inadequate in the most accessible locations in the United States (Hurricanes Katrina- New Orleans and Sandy- New York City) is questionable and, in fact, FEMA experts have said that reserves able to last many weeks is much more appropriate before supply lines may be up in some cases.
In order to achieve the purpose of increasing the ability of Alaskan communities to feed themselves in the case that typical food supply routes and schedules are disrupted for a period of time ranging from days to weeks, there need to be affordable, sustainable methods which any and every Alaskan community can employ. Each community should decide for themselves the duration they want and can afford to store food. By contracting with and training current private and public food consumption and commercial distribution outlets, communities can keep a cache of food which is reserved for emergency use only and is rotated as part of regular stock management. No food is wasted or lost from expiration and the proper quality, quantity and types of foods is on hand as needed.
Food Storage is only part of the solution:
The ACEFCS needs to be part of a community's overall disaster preparedness plans for those situations which may restrict normal food transportation channels because no community can store all the food they would ever expect to need in a major, catastrophic, regional or national disaster. Food sources such a wild fish and game, other wild foods and cultivated foods (and their Emergency Harvest Protocols) need to be integrated into a comprehensive plan which accounts for community needs, time of year, collective harvest resources (boats, ATVs, fuel, etc), harvest/processing/distribution system, etc. because these resources would be highly sought after and easily depleted if not actively managed in an emergency.
The Alaska Food Policy Council has developed a tool called the Community Food Emergency and Resilience Template which integrates the elements of storage and harvest with other community needs and priorities. It is a basic structure by which to frame the community dialog and fill in necessary gaps for any Alaskan community to develop a plan which considers the nutritional needs for all its residents will be met in a sustainable, environmentally appropriate and economically sound manner as is possible.
How can a community successfully keep food on hand in case of emergency?
The ACEFCS is a framework of public-private partnerships (PPP or P3) creating prosperity through the Triple bottom line (TBL or 3BL) by allowing for continuity of operations, system optimization and planned outcomes.
Local Food Vendors (LFVs), potentially including institutional food services, distributors, non-profits, agencies, schools, box stores, community stores and restaurants are encouraged to apply to participate in the ACEFCS. These are food outlets which are already going through food stock in a community on a regular basis. The LFV’s store Emergency Food Caches (EFC) which will be kept above minimum agreed stock levels at all times in their secure storage facilities (warehouse, store room, etc.). An EFC is an agreed upon quantity (calculated to # of meals), quality (specific items which constitute healthy and balanced nutritional value and are culturally appropriate), and types (ie specific preparation requirement parameters- consider the difference between canned beans vs. dry beans) of foods. Foods in the EFC are rotated on a regular basis as part of daily operations (well before expiration dates) and in accordance with methods developed in partnership with the ACEFCS administrators. Exact Cache locations will be authorized by ACEFCS to determine they are secure from natural and human related threats.
Why would a business ever want to participate as a LFV with ACEFCS?!
LFVs benefit by; 1) increased employee satisfaction due to their own improved food security (the “I’m cared for” effect- see the Employee Self and Family Plans (ESFP)below), 2) attractiveness to competitive employees “We have a ESFP program!”, 2) being buffered from some “normal” out of stock situations (as long as they keep the contracted minimum stock levels) caused by minor supply and demand fluctuations, 4) public recognition and promotion for being a Good Samaritan Business (GSB), 5) better likelihood of care for property in case of a food emergency (looting, vandalism, loss of inventory to spoilage), 6) managers and employees receive EFR training, 7) developing standing memorandums of understanding with local government to streamline EFC stock replacement reimbursements (from the State), 8) more likelihood of continuity of operations during and after disaster.
Why would a community want to participate in the ACEFCS?
Local Communities and the State of Alaska benefit by; 1) compared to just stockpiling, there are no ongoing food replacement costs (initial investment, loss, spoilage, expiration, etc), 2) more prepared citizens and families trained to be “part of the solution” in an emergency, 3) increased community/individual awareness of the need for emergency preparedness, 4) potential strengthened local economies because of an Alaska grown/produced preference programs (ie Nutritional Alaskan Foods to Schools) which can include the Alaskan producers as LFV or stores/distributors who carry their products as the LFV, or both., 5) Integrated storage (ie root cellars, cool storage, cold storage) for agricultural and fisheries products as part of EFC stocks as appropriate and available for producers. Storage for agricultural products has been identified by Alaskan producers as a limiting factor for industry growth.
How will a business, organization or agency be able to succeed as a LFV during emergencies?
With provided training, guidance and support, LFV’s will maintain a Employee Readiness Protocol (ERP) by which their employees (Emergency Food Responders-EFR) will respond to an emergency need with the appropriate performance.
ERP will include;
1. Securing and Distributing Food: When activated/directed by pre-established framework, employees report to (or stay with) the cache (business) and implement rehearsed Food Security and Distribution Protocols (FSDP) to, a) secure the food reserve and, b) distribute it in a pre-planned manner (or as directed by Emergency Response Command Center/System) to either the public or contracted service agencies such as the Red Cross and,
2. Keeping Essential Employees “on post”: There will be established Employee Self and Family Plans (ESFP) which will enable employees to successfully and reliably carry out the FSDP with minimal concern for their own family’s safety. As a primary part of the EFSP, the employer provides or subsidizes, and verifies both vehicle and home-based personal emergency supplies which will meet self and family needs for a designated time period. This support is paramount for employees to stay on duty during an emergency but also provides a sense of security and wellbeing (thanks to their employer) and is exemplified by Juneau’s electrical company, AEL&P who has such a program for their lines people who are first responders to get electrical service up after a disaster. In the case of AEL&P, the company provides services for the employee and family are at the actual place of work. It is a sort of “safe house” for the families. Providing for the expected employee needs while they are at work either serving as EFR’s or if they are unable to return home for other qualified reasons (inaccessible, damaged, dangerous, etc.) is a minimum level of support provided by a Good Samaritan Business.
Sounds great, what’s it going to cost us?!
Expected costs to LFV includes; 1) ERP development, 2), Employee training, 3) Management of the EFC.
ACSFCS program administration support would most appropriately be handled through Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to provide 1) EFR training, 2) LFV support, 3) state government coordination with local emergency response plan.
Costs for 1) increased requirement for conditioned space, 2) initial EFC stock potentially shared with all beneficiaries of the program; City/Village/Tribal government, LFV, State of Alaska. Grants for initial stocks could be part of Alaskan Strategic Food Reserve program for future state reserve stock replacement, expected every 5 years.
How can we start developing an ACEFCS?
The process begins with the desire to be food secure by your own means, depending on those within your local community, but not on the State of Federal government for immediate relief in the case of large scale disaster. Gather community leaders who share the responsibility for care of your people and begin conversations based on this publication and the Alaskan Community Food Emergency and Resilience Template. If your priorities align with these publications, contact the Juneau office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service to start to implement your ACEFCS.
Glossary of Abbreviations
ACEFCS- Alaska Community Emergency Food Cache System (see above for explanation)
LFV- Local Food Vendor - institutional food service providers, distributors, non-profits, agencies, schools, stores, restaurants, who provide food in a community.
ERP- Employee Readiness Protocol – an established level of training and preparedness provided to employees which enables them to perform as an EFR.
EFR- Emergency Food Responder – Employee of LFV trained and certified in the ERP for that LFV.
EFC- Emergency Food Cache- an agreed upon quantity (calculated to # of meals), quality (specific items which constitute healthy and balanced nutritional value and are culturally appropriate), and types (ie specific preparation requirement parameters- consider the difference between canned beans vs. dry beans) of foods managed by a LFV.
PPP (P3)- public-private partnerships – an agreement for collaboration between private and public entities
TBL (3BL) Triple bottom line – the goal of sustainable activities which promote successful social, environmental and economic outcomes. Also stated as “people, planet and profit” and the "three pillars of sustainability"
FSDP- Food Security and Distribution Protocols - actions taken by a LFV have their trained EFR’s to a) secure the food reserve and, b) distribute it in a pre-planned manner (or as directed by Emergency Response Command Center/System) to either the public or contracted service agencies such as the Red Cross.
ESFP- Employee Self and Family Plans - enables employees to successfully and reliably carry out the FSDP without concern for their own family’s safety and wellbeing.
GSB – Good Samaritan Business – distinguishes itself by providing a service beyond its own benefit to serve the greater community needs.