Business news from the Fredericksburg region.
Claiming spoiled food may not be worth it
BY CATHY JETT
For thousands of Fredericksburg-area residents who lost power during the recent storms, finding someplace cool to escape the heat wasn’t their only problem.
They also had to toss out food that had spoiled in their refrigerators and freezers while they were away.
Most insurance policies will cover the replacement cost, minus the deductible. To file a claim, policy holders should prepare a list of what was lost and the price of each item.
But filing a claim just for spoiled food may not be the wisest move, several agents advised.
“In most cases, unless food spoilage is incorporated with some other loss, it’s not worth it to file, unfortunately,” said Sue Lundmark, personal lines manager at Cox & Johnson Insurance at 604 William St.
The average deductible on a homeowners insurance policy is $500, she said. If a homeowner had to toss out food worth more than that and filed a claim, the claim would go on their record.
“With homeowners policies, your rates are based on your loss history,” Lundmark said. “If you have more than one in a year, a company could elect not to renew you because of claims frequency.”
She said it would be worthwhile to fold a claim for spoiled food into a claim for other, more significant damage, such as a tree falling on a roof, fence or outbuilding. (The cost of removing trees that fall in a yard without hitting anything is generally not covered by homeowners insurance.)
Federal, state and local governments are not providing assistance to those who lost food due to storm-related power outages except for those who qualify for SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps.
SNAP qualifiers can go to their local social services department and fill out a “food replacement request” form if they have experienced a verifiable disaster—such as a power outage exceeding four hours—where food purchased with their SNAP benefits was destroyed, said Christen Gallik, director of the city of Fredericksburg’s department.
The loss must be reported within 10 days of the disaster, and the power outages will be verified with the service provider. Recipients may be entitled to the actual value of food loss reported, but the replacement cannot exceed their monthly benefit amount.
Michael Muse, director of the Social Services office in Stafford County, said that he doubted many SNAP recipients would apply for reimbursement following the June 29 storm because they received their next month’s allotment on July 1.
“Those that had been using their benefits through the month of June may have lost some food right around that time frame, but not a lot because they’re struggling each month and are not in position to buy a lot of extra food,” he said.
Oya Oliver, president and CEO of the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank, said it’s too soon to tell what impact the storm has had on demand at the 74 nonprofits that get food from her organization.
The Food Bank distributed 21,000 pounds of nonperishable food from its warehouse over three days last week, she said. That’s about average, although the warehouse is typically open Monday through Thursday. It was closed for the Fourth of July holiday.
Oliver said she expects that demand will be heavier this week as most of the area food pantries were emptied by people who needed food after the storm. A list of the pantries, their address and hours of operation is available at fredfood.org.
The pantries, many of which are run by area churches, each have their own criteria for eligibility, she said, but anyone who needs food can get it by applying to the Food Bank in person at 3631 Lee Hill Drive, by phoning 540/371-7666 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Anybody who comes to our door does not go back empty-handed,” Oliver said. “Never.”
Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407