TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has temporarily made it possible for people who use federal nutrition assistance programs to buy hot and ready-to-eat foods.
The USDA announced the waiver Monday for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Florida to buy hot foods with their benefits through Oct. 31, 2018.
A USDA official emphasized the importance of the waiver, noting that many Florida residents evacuated to shelters cannot store food and are lacking access to cooking facilities.
Normally, hot foods cannot be bought with SNAP benefits.
Hot foods include items sold at authorized SNAP retailers that are hot at the point of sale. The waiver addresses the inability of those SNAP participants affected by the disaster to prepare food at home.
SNAP authorized retailers may need 24 - 36 hours to be ready to accept SNAP benefits for hot foods due to programming changes that may be required at their stores.
The FDA also has tips to check whether or not the food in your refrigerator is still good:
Once Power is Restored . . . Determine the safety of your food:
- If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, check the temperature when the power comes back on. If the freezer thermometer reads 40° F or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen.
- If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. You can’t rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40° F or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook.
- Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power was out for no more than 4 hours and the refrigerator door was kept shut. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or leftovers) that has been at temperatures above 40° F for 2 hours or more (or 1 hour if temperatures are above 90º F).
Perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, and eggs that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed, even when they are thoroughly cooked.