Three weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, there is reportedly a massive shortage of meals in the U.S. territory. The Guardian reports that FEMA officials have said the government and its partners are only providing 200,000 meals per day to meet the needs of 2 million Puerto Rican residents, which is a daily shortfall of between 1.8m and 5.8m meals.
"We are 1.8 million meals short," said one senior FEMA official. "That is why we need the urgency. And it’s not going away. We’re doing this much today, but it has to be sustained over several months."
Many of FEMA's food deliveries are military ready-to-eat meals that are difficult for civilians to digest for more than several days. World Central Kitchen, which is currently the biggest provider of cooked meals, says FEMA is putting its operations at risk of closure. The organization's FEMA contract to provide 20,000 meals per day ended on Tuesday, and it will take several weeks to write up a new contract that will help feed Americans.
"There is no urgency in the government response to this humanitarian crisis," World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés said. "They have all the officials and armed guards at headquarters, but they have no information about the island. They don’t even have a map they can share about who needs food. FEMA is over-paying and it is under-delivering."
Meanwhile, Donald Trump continues to praise his own response to the crisis in Puerto Rico. "Nobody could have done what I’ve done for Puerto Rico with so little appreciation. So much work!" he tweeted on Sunday.
The Guardian notes that the Trump administration has "limited insight" about food distribution on the island, and a recent AP-NORC poll showed that only 32 percent of Americans approve of his response to Hurricane Maria's devastation of Puerto Rico.
In addition to the food shortage, 84 percent of the island remains without power and its economy is at a standstill. Many residents of Puerto Rico have left the island entirely. According to relief workers, the population of the island of Vieques has dropped from 9,000 to 6,000 since Hurricane Maria made landfall.