Feb 7, 2023 - News

Massive food spoilage casualty of Austin freeze

Illustration of a slice of bread with peanut butter in the shape of a worried face

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

One of the casualties of last week's freeze: Perfectly good food.

Why it matters: That tragic moment of tossing fast-spoiling food from unlit fridges has played out countless times across Austin.

Zoom in: Austin ISD's central warehouse, where thousands of pounds of refrigerated and frozen food are stored for distribution to school kitchens, lost power last week

  • The warehouse is located in South Austin near St. Edward's University.

What they're saying: "We have grounds crews picking up limbs, of course, but also electricians, other trades and emergency management team members unloading spoiling food,” AISD chief of operations Christine Steenport said.

  • "We will always feed the kids."

Between the lines: Last week was a sad mess.

  • Poke Poke restaurant owner Jason McVearry told the American-Statesman he was losing tens of thousands of dollars in revenue because of the loss of fresh food inventory.
  • Maybe you saw the viral, post-apocalyptic video of crowds dumpster diving outside an H-E-B.

Flashback: On Saturday, a long line of cars assembled for a free food distribution event in Southeast Austin.

  • "I will say the heartbreaking thing is that we've had cars in line since 6am," Austin City Council member Vanessa Fuentes told KVUE. "This food distribution started at 9am. It's a mile long with cars."

Be smart: If an outage lasts longer than four hours, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends throwing out all perishable foods in your fridge.

  • The USDA says items kept in a full freezer can stay safe for approximately 48 hours.

Worth noting: Some homeowner and renter policies will pay up to $500 for spoiled food if the power fails, per the Texas Department of Insurance.

  • Call your agent or company to ask if your policy will pay. Sometimes there is not a deductible.
  • If you snapped pictures of your spoiling food — ewww — keep them for the insurance company — or put together a list of the food that spoiled.

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