A year has passed since Hurricane Maria first made landfall in Puerto Rico, destroying homes, roads, and vehicles in its path—and taking thousands of lives. The island languished for months as an insufficient emergency response campaign attempted to restore basic services like water and power. After a recent independent , citing malnutrition and other food-based ailments as possible culprits for surging mortality in the storm’s aftermath, that number could be over 4,000., the official death toll was raised from the initial 64 to 2,975; analysis done by The
How could this happen? By taking out the island’s infrastructure like highways, trucks, gas stations, and more, the storm also wiped out its agricultural supply lines. Puerto Rico imports about 85 percent of all its food, producing just 15 percent of what’s consumed on the island.
In the wake of the storm, people stood in lines for hours and walked barely-stocked aisles looking for canned, non-perishable foods. Many relied on emergency responders and Federal Emergency Management Administration (, made of packaged and processed foods that require little to no preparation, like the beef jerky and crackers you’d expect to find in a vending machine. In harder-to-service rural areas on the island, the threat of starvation loomed large.
“They say that during Maria, Puerto Rico only had enough food for one week,” says Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, who became an international figurehead after calling out President Trump for his inadequate response to the crisis. “I hate to say anything positive about Maria. But what the hurricane did was force us to look at the realities of life here and how our dependency on the outside weakens our ability to ensure our people are taken care of. Maria made it evident that we need agricultural sovereignty.”
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