Sandy causes over $1M in food losses

Darien’s health department recently surveyed food establishments and discovered that they lost over a $1 million in total during and after the recent storm.

The survey was sent to “food service facilities” that “cook food and hold it for service to patrons,” including establishments like Uncle’s Deli, Stop & Shop, Scena’s and Palmer’s Market. Coffee and ice cream shops were not included, according to David Knauf, director of health. He presented the results at the Advisory Board of Health meeting on Thursday, Dec. 6.

Food establishments lost $700,000 in revenue from being closed for business either due to the storm or failed generators, if they had one at all, Knauf told the Darien Times. An additional $350,000 was lost from discarded food, he said, based on the 39 Darien establishments that replied. Only 11 did not rely to the survey, and 28 in town never lost power, he said.

The department’s results do not cover the amount of food people discarded from their homes, Knauf said.

“I keep hearing: ‘the storm caught everyone by surprise,’” he said, “and to some extent it did.”

Some businesses did not have the right equipment for storing food, or had generators fail, he explained. Palmer’s wanted to donate food but was not ultimately able to keep it refrigerated below the 45 degree requirement, Knauf said.

The Darien Times reported on November 9 that Palmer’s lost between $80,000 and $100,000 worth of food during the power outage, according to Greg Palmer, owner of the store.

The health department is currently sending out paperwork for permit renewals, with a “strong recommendation” that all food establishments buy a digital recording thermometer, he said. The department cannot require businesses to purchase the thermometers, or even generators but the digital device could give the them data about how well a refrigerator is working, he said. “In a power outage you’d know when you’re getting to a critical level and how to respond.”

There are many food establishments that are staples in Darien, whi77le other locations change from time to time, and lease space from building owners. For this reason, the department does not make any mandates for equipment. “From a practical standpoint, for these food service facilities a generator’s expensive,” Knauf said. “If one facility is forced to buy a generator, and the business isn’t good, it’s not like they can take it with them.”

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