to stock an emergency food supply
April 06, 2006
Suzanne Havala Hobbs
bird flu in the news and hurricane season approaching, readers
have asked me about stocking their homes with emergency food
supplies. In fact, some federal officials are encouraging
us to do just that.
Their rationale: An in-home food stash could help families
ride out a flu epidemic that forces us to stay in our homes
or get by for a week or two should a storm or other emergency
make it hard to get to the grocery store.
The chance such an emergency will occur is slim, but it’s
easy to build a short-term food supply. All you really have
to do is buy more of the staples you already use.
In some settings, this is routine.
For example, earlier in my career, I consulted for nursing
homes and group homes, which are required to maintain a designated,
short-term emergency food supply. I’d inspect their
supplies to ensure foods were fresh and amounts were adequate.
Using that experience as a guide, here are some tips for setting
up your own food stash. Choose foods that are:
• Nonperishable. Foods should keep for several months
• Easy to prepare. Unless you have a small camp stove
or outdoor grill, you may not be able to cook. Packaged or
canned foods should be “ready to eat.”
• Nutritious. Foods should supply the basic nutrients
you need to support health. Cheetos and Oreos don’t
make the cut.
What to stock:
• Peanut butter and nuts in cans or bottles.
• Canned vegetables, fruit, baked beans, soup, and other
foods you wouldn’t mind eating at room temp.
• Canned and bottled fruit and vegetable juices.
• Bottled water. The Federal Emergency Management Agency
recommends one gallon of water per person per day for drinking
and other uses.
• Dried fruit and trail mix.
• Crackers and granola or energy bars.
• Soymilk or rice milk in shelf-stable containers. Powdered
milk stores well, too, but it requires water to rehydrate.
• Food for your dog or cat.
• Bottles of baby food if there’s a little one
in the house.
• Instant coffee and tea.
• Dry cereals and instant soup and cereal cups, if you
have a way to heat water.
Buy foods you like and would ordinarily use, and consider
the number of people and animals in your household. Foods
in boxes and bags should be kept in airtight plastic or metal
containers to help keep bugs out.
You may already have the equivalent of a short-term food supply
in your pantry and cupboards. It’s hard to keep track,
though, if it isn’t stored in one place and earmarked
as an emergency supply.
A small, short-term supply of food can be stored in a large
plastic storage box in a closet or pantry. A larger supply
can be kept in a dedicated cabinet. If you store food in the
basement or garage, keep it cool and dry. Don’t let
foods freeze, and don’t store them where the temperature
may exceed 70 degrees.
Once you have the food, there’s one more step you need
to take. Every item should be labeled with the date it was
purchased. Use a permanent marker or write on stick-on labels.
Then, once you’ve set the food aside, don’t forget
Rotate the stock, just like they do in grocery stores. Every
few months, pull older items out and use them first. Replace
them with freshly-purchased foods, and label and store those
items in the back of the shelf or container. Continuously
refresh the stock, using older items first.
For information on planning longer-term supplies see http://www.fema.gov/library/emfdwtr.shtm
Then sit back and relax, knowing you won’t have to fight
the crowds in the checkout line the next time a tropical storm
heads our way.