Foods Distributed During Federal Disaster Relief Response in Puerto Rico After Hurricane María Did Not Fully Meet Federal Nutrition Recommendations

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics








Dietary Guidelines for Americans; Emergency response; Humanitarian assistance; Hurricane María; Puerto Rico


© 2019 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Background: Emergency foods distributed during a federal disaster relief response must follow the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans according to the 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring Related Research Act. Nutrition information about emergency foods for household distribution is scarce. Methods: According to structured observation protocols, foods received daily at a federal distribution center in Puerto Rico after Hurricane María (November 10-25, 2017) were grouped into Dietary Guidelines for Americans ChooseMyPlate food groups. Data about their sodium, saturated fat, added sugar, and fiber content per serving were captured. Registered dietitians designed meal plans with the foods distributed. Results: Of 107 unique food items, 41% were snacks and sweets; and 13%, 4%, 13%, and 7% were fruits, vegetables, proteins, and grains, respectively. Fifty-eight percent of all foods were low in fiber (≤1 g); 46% included high amounts of sodium, saturated fats, or added sugars (≥20% daily value). The registered dietitians were able to design meal plans that complied with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans food group recommendations, but they exceeded upper daily limits for sodium, saturated fat, or added sugars. Conclusions: In view of projected increases in natural disasters and diet-related chronic diseases, DGA compliance must be improved so that federal emergency foods can support the health of survivors.