Dividends and We Fed An Island

Hurricane season always bring tragic stories about how regular people’s lives are disrupted, it is to be expected. Unfortunately hurricane season or other natural resources also shows how many of us are not prepared and that includes governments. By all accounts, except for the President who gave FEMA a 10, everyone else in the world gave FEMA a 10 out of 100; the government failed to do many things to help Puerto Rico. It really does not matter that Puerto Rico had many challenges before the hurricane, the hurricane offered the people whether they wanted to or not a chance to start again.

One man Jose Andres decided he needed to focus on feeding the island, how to do that? The book We Fed an Island by Jose Andres published by HarperCollins, NY, 2018 is his journey. He started with one restaurant focusing on food which is existing and trying to connect to local people in the food business to buy their food. For example buy the bread from the bakeries and Sam’s Club (Walmart). Trying to inject money into the economy and feed the people. In the process he learnt, in many disasters the Southern Baptist Church does the cooking, the Red Cross distributes the food and FEMA typically worries about infrastructure. In the case of Puerto Rico the Southern Baptist Church was not there, the Red Cross was handing out prepackaged food you would eat once and no one was worried about food. Mr. Andres and the World Central Kitchen stepped up and as time moved on became more creative. The solution was to ensure food could be made in a central location and then sent to other locations on the island. First jeeps and food trucks were used. Then a solution was found – many schools have kitchens and were never used but serve as a community center, can they be used. After serving over 3 million meals, it was time to wind down and wait for the next disaster.

Along the journey, FEMA failed and it has to be overhauled before the next hurricane season – besides the lack of leadership from the President, some of the contracts it gave out were to a two person outfit the most glaring one was to a group in Central Montana to fix the power grid system of the island. There were others – it seems FEMA is seen as gaining a nice slice of cash without doing any work, subcontract the subcontract and by the time anyone investigates it is too late for the people that were suppose to be helped.

Linking to dividend paying stocks, all companies should have disaster plans, hopefully most do not have to use them but disasters happen. To ensure the people know how to communicate during the plan, if the company is fortunate not to be involved in the disaster the company should send people to see how they manage. It is easy to get it wrong and people are not helped, it is hard to go with the flow and challenges of the fluid situation and what needs to be done and when it can be done. Ask about your company’s disaster plans and how did they manage the last one.

There are more questions than answers, till the next time – to raising questions.

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