Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Carmel on the Case: Emergency Food
When we look back on 2005, none of us will ever forget Hurricane Wilma. But immediatly after the storm, the State of Florida did for the first time try to provide thousands of boxed meals. Now - two months later - some people are still trying to figure out why we paid so much for so little. Investigative Carmel Cafiero has more in tonight's Carmel on the Case
WSVN--After Hurricane Wilma - food and water and ice became precious commodities. But when many people picked up water and ice, they also received these boxes to keep them nourished. Now, those food boxes purchased by the State of Florida are raising questions.
Estella Moran: "This was my tenth hurricane."
Estella Moran in Pembroke Pines is concerned about the selections in the boxes she received.
Estella Moran: "I do think that somebody needs to make a few better choices."
Each box is supposed to feed an adult for a day. This one contained two puddings - two cans of potato chips - two bags of raisins an apple juice and a fruit drink. There were also two bags of sunflower seeds - cereal and powdered milk and small canned entrees.
Estella Moran: "The only thing I'd say about that beans and franks and ravioli is you don't have any heat..you know. I'm not so sure it'd be too tasty."
Steve Banks: "Well it looked like just a bunch of snacks."
Steve Banks and fianc頍arion Pettkus were given the boxed meals when they went for ice in dania. Both were suprised by the contents which were similar to estella moran's box - but their's did not contain the sunflower seeds and had only one small package of raisins.
Steve Banks: "I'm thinking just looking at this I could probably put this together for two dollars or something like that if I were to do it."
Carmel Cafiero: "What do you think when you hear that we paid fourteen dollars for it?"
Steve Banks: "I find that hard to believe."
Seven News has learned the State of Florida bought 549 thousand of these three meal boxes for fourteen dollars each. That's a little more than seven and half million dollars...All without competetive bids based on emergency needs. Chuck Hagen is Florida's emergency logistics chief and says next year the state will put the program out for bids.
Chuck Hagen: "Had the State of Florida not put this product out to the general public, the alternative would have been no food for the first few days to the general public."
Hagen says this is the first year the state has purchased food in advance of an emergency and says the program is a work in progress.
Chuck Hagen: "It's meant to cover the first few days until people can get other types of resources."
Ronni Julien: "Well you really don't have a semblance of all that much that's healthy."
We asked dietitian Ronnie Julien to take a look at one of the boxes. She is concerned about the high sugar and salt content of the ingredients and says there's not enough protein here.
Ronni Julien: "Oh, this has less than half the amount of protein a healthy adult requires."
Carmel Cafiero: "The meal packages were put together by GA Foods in St. Petersburg. The company says Hurricane Wilma struck at a time when nationwide supplies had been stretched thin by the needs of Hurricane Katrina's victims."
Bruce Boore: "We were - along with everybody else in this country - trying to feed millions of people every day which is something I don't think this country has ever seen."
Bruce Boore says GA Foods could not include the exact selection it would have liked in some packages because many items were in short supply. As for the nutritional value - he says some meal packs had more protein than others - but they were meant to keep someone going for the short term.
Bruce Boore: "And quite frankly I think we were very successful and I think the state of Florida was extremely successful in being able to provide a level of nutrition that was still pretty good."
As for the price - Seven News was able to duplicate the food in this box for 6.38 cents retail. Boore says the utensils, bacterial wipes and the cost to prepare and ship --- all add up. He says Florida got a fair deal.
Bruce Boore: "I think they got a tremendous deal."
But some folks here in South Florida still think we paid too much.
Steve Banks: "How do you get to fourteen dollars - I just don't understand."
Estella Moran: "To me , I could buy many more things that I could have eaten for fourteen dollars that would have substained me a lot better than this."
And of course that's something to consider when the next storm season rolls around. Stock up in advance - and you can eat what you want.
If you have a story for Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE