It’s been nearly two months since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, leaving the ravaged island with minimum resources, limited forms of communication, and 80% of the U.S. territory without electricity. As big-name celebrities and companies like Google continue to ramp up relief efforts to help the beleaguered land, one company’s attempts to help fell flat.
Longbranch Partners, LLC incurred the wrath of Puerto Ricans and supporters when victims began sharing photos of the food aid packages the government contractor was sending to locals. The boxes of food sent included packages of unhealthy and insubstantial snacks such as Cheez-Its, BabyRuths, Air Nerds, and canned meat. “This is unacceptable and no doubt they got paid good money for these ‘care packages.’ Nope, not today LongBranch, not today,” one person tweeted. Another wrote: “I didn’t even know airheads were still around. Really, who the hell can feed a family with that?”
The same in Camino Nuevo, Yabucoa, last October 13. pic.twitter.com/MEHEzMdtRN— Jorge Figueroa Loza (@jorgefloza) November 13, 2017
After 4 weeks of no food or water in aid my family in Cabo Rojo received 2 cans of beefaroni & crackers! I wrote about it on Facebook and a volunteer vet from a relief team apologized & posted this pic and said he felt bad giving care packages like this out. pic.twitter.com/JlJqVgN87a— Carla Ramos (@Lucysbabygirl) November 13, 2017
When the photos of the care packages started circulating online, many blamed FEMA. But the agency defended itself, telling news outlets that the food was not meant to be a full meal: “‘Meal module’ is Longbranch’s terminology, not FEMA’s” they said, adding that the agency canceled future orders and was only involved in distributing the fare. (Many Twitter users shared images of Longbranch’s label on the boxes, helping to clarify that the government contractors were responsible for assortment of snacks sent, not FEMA.)
Pedro Lugo, who tweeted a popular image of the food box that garnered 12,000 retweets, asked local newspaper The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “How can people pass this off as nutritious?”