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4.2 Mass Care Considerations for Feeding Operations During Larger-Scale/Longer-Duration Scenarios (Non-Evacuation Scenarios)

4.2.1 Providing Food and Water

During large-scale or longer-duration biological incidents, critical disruption in food supply chains may create challenges in obtaining food and water. Impacted populations, including those who are non-ambulatory and those that remain mobile but are under social distancing restrictions, may require sustained feeding and hydration support if normal access to food retailers is restricted or eliminated or there is limited supply, particularly in major urban areas. The provision of food and water to those in need may also be necessary in instances where families find themselves in an adverse financial situation based on the economic impacts of a sustained biological incident (e.g., job loss, price inflation, etc.). Depending on the level of risk, this may result in a need for mass dispensing sites and/or home delivery for individuals who are mobility challenged or cannot leave their locations based on their personal health status. Examples of supportive actions include:

  • Purchasing, packaging, and/or preparing meals
  • Delivering food to distribution points and/or individuals, when conditions constitute a level of severity such that food is not easily accessible for purchase or affordable
Figure 30: Public health measures may create supply chain interruptions impacting feeding
Figure 30: Public health measures may create supply chain interruptions impacting feeding77

The traditional model of using mostly volunteers for the preparation and distribution of food to at-risk populations (e.g., parents of infants) may not be sustainable during a biological incident and, therefore, may require a mix of public-private collaboration and contracting.

In addition to food, access to clean water must be maintained for all affected populations. If a biological incident compromises a community’s water supply (e.g., Cryptosporidium or Legionnaires’ disease outbreak), mass care services may be required to provide individuals with potable water until the source is decontaminated and safe for drinking again. (Refer to KPF 3: Control the Spread of Disease, for more information on environmental containment and source reduction.)

What Will You Need to Know?

  • How will you identify best practices for large-scale food dispensing centers and coordinate plans for mass food and water pickup at specially established food dispensing locations?
  • What accommodations need to be made for delivering/dispensing food to those with dietary restrictions during a biological incident?
  • What will be needed to ensure safety of those delivering food or water assistance to impacted populations?


77. Mpi34/MediaPunch/IPX/AP. (2022). A view of empty shelves at a local Giant supermarket on January 9, 2022 in Alexandria, Virginia [Photograph].