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Published August 3, 2022 at 11:33 AM CDT

Relief efforts remain underway in eastern Kentucky where scores of communities were devastated by last week’s floods. As of Wednesday, the death toll is 37 with fears that the number could rise as water levels recede.

Kentucky faces an additional threat this week as dangerously high temperatures settle over the state. During a Tuesday press conference, Gov. Andy Bashear warned residents working to save what they could from their homes to take precautions against the heat. “We’re bringing in water on the trucks,” Bashear assured Kentuckians. “We’ll make sure we have enough for you.”

Some of that water comes from central Illinois. Normal-based Midwest Food Bank has so far sent two half-loads of bottled water to affected areas in Kentucky with plans for more. Michael Hoffman is the procurement and logistics manager for Midwest Food Bank. The organization anticipated a need for clean water, Hoffman said, but was still surprised by how great the need was.

“Half a load of water — and that’s a lot of water — in an hour, it’s pretty much gone,” Hoffman said. Witnessing the scale of desperation, the semi’s volunteer driver immediately returned to Illinois to pick up another load of bottled water.

Hoffman said many of the affected communities in Kentucky don’t even have the ability to boil water for consumption. They were advised by authorities that the water was too polluted. “They’re like, not even touching the water,” Hoffman said.

Kentucky residents also need shelf-stable food, according to Hoffman. Midwest Food Bank has put together food boxes that can feed a family for up to five days. The boxes include items such as canned vegetables and pasta, and while the food bank is grateful for donations of unused food, Hoffman said the most effective way to help is by donating money or time.

“We’ll do the answering, and we’ll do the driving, and we’ll get everything down here,” Hoffman said, although volunteers are needed to assemble food boxes at the Morton location.

Hoffman said cash donations are especially important because of inflation. The cost of fueling trucks alone is incredibly high. And rising costs aren’t just a consideration in disaster relief, he said, adding that food pantries are reporting a sharp increase in traffic in recent months.

Hoffman feels compelled to dispel the notion that people who visit food pantries are looking for handouts.

“I can tell you that the vast majority are people who work,” he said. “Most (of visitors) are the people who work and just can’t make ends meet.”

That’s a situation made worse by inflation, as people operating on tight budgets find they have no room in the margins for rising costs. Hoffman said that forces people to make tough choices between essentials like gas and groceries. He is especially concerned about families who are already struggling and will soon have to pay the cost of school supplies.

“Something’s got to give,” Hoffman said.

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