Skip to content
CityLab
Justice

New York's Looming Food Disaster

Hurricane Sandy exposed striking vulnerabilities in the city's supply chains.
A worker stocks shelves at a temporary CVS store in the Rockaway Beach neighborhood of Queens, New York. CVS has set up a temporary store in the parking lot of a CVS location that had been damaged in Hurricane Sandy.
A worker stocks shelves at a temporary CVS store in the Rockaway Beach neighborhood of Queens, New York. CVS has set up a temporary store in the parking lot of a CVS location that had been damaged in Hurricane Sandy.Brendan McDermid/Reuters

In New York City, locating a bite to eat is rarely a difficult task. The city is a food paradise or, depending on your mood, a place of overwhelming glut.

But when Superstorm Sandy pummeled New York last fall, it revealed the terrifying potential for sudden food shortages. Flooded stores like Red Hook’s Fairway Market were forced to haul off loads of ruined produce, while persistent power outages and scant fuel supplies turned the banality of restocking into a nightmare for stores across the city. For markets nestled in lower Manhattan, the physical challenges were most grave. One bridge or tunnel shutdown might delay countless deliveries—amid disaster, a terrifying notion for stores like Met FoodMarkets in SoHo. "They only can get here if they can get here," says Met manager Franklin Fernandez.