We threw out an alarming quantity of food. The surplus was intentional. The suggestion of a shortage, even for a single meal, caused anxiety in the population. We kept our struggle to maintain a regular feeding schedule and supply chain to ourselves. Despite this effort, some unusual food-related behavior showed itself.
There was one gentleman who clearly had issues with food. It was his habit to go through the food line, then take his plate down a hallway and eat standing up where no one could see him, then do it all over again. It was most of a week before he realized that second helpings were allowed, and that nobody else in the shelter was going to try to steal his food.
A few others decided that the food situation in Louisiana was so dire that they would hoard their leftovers. With no storage available, this meant that food was stashed under pillows and mattresses.
We had no less than three young single guys with no ties to the area other than a last known address and an ex girlfriend. All of them thought that the disaster was an opportunity to restart the old relationship-that the hurricane created a knight-in-shining-armor situation for their benefit. Unfortunately, that mindset was keeping them in a shelter, when there were ample opportunities to move on-leave the area for a while or permanently, get a job.
Dale Austin, May 2006
All images and text Copyright Dale Austin, 1962-2008