Regardless of where one lives, we should all have a suitably stocked food pantry in case we are faced with an emergency situation that disrupts the infrastructure we take for granted most of the time.
Right now the eastern coast of the U.S. is hunkering down to bear the wrath of Hurricane Irene. Residents might lose power for days. Without power, food stored in the refrigerator can quickly perish. Freezers will stay cooler longer, but still will thaw if power is disrupted for prolonged times.
It is a good idea to have a propane-operated generator to provide emergency power, and several full propane tanks to operate the generator and an outdoor grill. The generator can be used to protect the most expensive perishables in your freezer. Alternatively, identify a local source of dry ice ahead of time.
“Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for 2 days.”
Immediate food needs must also be considered. Don’t count on shopping for food and water during such an emergency. Flood waters might prevent even short distance trips. Even if stores are accessible and remain open until their inventory is depleted, everybody who failed to prepare in advance will be out looking for the same things. It is better to plan ahead.
Clean water is most essential. If power to the water station is disrupted or water mains break, where will your drinking water come from?
People dehydrate at different rates depending on their levels of physical activity, their physiology and metabolism, and environmental conditions. Water needs also vary, but in general, each person should drink 4 to 6 liters of water each day. When figuring how much water to keep on hand, other water needs should also be considered, for example water for cooking and water for flushing toilets. Of course the later need not be potable.
Non-perishable foods are essential during emergency situations. This is the one time to go for dried and canned food products over anything that requires refrigeration or freezing. Also consider foods that don’t require much water or energy resources to prepare.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends to prepare for at least three days of emergency food needs. The Canned Food Alliance (CFA) suggests a minimum of two cans of food and one gallon of water per person per day.
The staples of an emergency food pantry might include canned beans, fruits, vegetables, and juices, dried fruits and nuts, canned meat products like chicken and spam, non-perishable dairy products like canned or dried milk, and ready-to-eat grain products such as packaged cereals and quick-cooking oats.
Dried herbs and spices are relatively non-perishable additions to make your meal more enjoyable. At the very least, keep salt and pepper in your emergency food stash.
Although better heated, canned beans can be eaten as-is and are a good source of protein, carbohydrates, and calories. They should not be drained, as liquid is liquid, a source of water. Go for brands with low sodium, because excess salt can increase your thirst and water needs.
Dried fruits and nuts are tasty and rich in nutrients.
Canned chicken is a better choice than canned tuna due to the harmful levels of toxic mercury that can be present in the tuna.
Rather than toss out that gallon of milk that was in your refrigerator when the power went out, as suggested by the USDA for many products if they warm up to ≥ 40 °F for more than 2 hours, keep on hand a few packages of dried kefir culture. Kefir is a pleasantly sour-tasting fermented dairy product that is especially good for your health and doesn’t spoil due to the action of beneficial bacteria and yeasts. It is easier to make than yogurt because the fermentation takes place at room temperature.
Store all emergency food and water supplies on shelves not likely to be reached by contaminated flood waters and in containers that are water-proof and rodent-proof.
You will need an old-fashioned manual can opener that you can use whether or not your power has been disrupted.
Remember to plan whatever is needed for your infants and pets as well.
What is in your emergency preparedness food pantry?
A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) website
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
What Should Your Emergency Pantry Look Like? Suggested by the Canned Food Alliance (CFA), download from CFA website
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You might also be interested in Donna’s other work as National Food Security Examiner, National Science News Examiner, Long Beach Urban Agriculture Examiner, and founder and executive director of Long Beach Grows.
Copyright © 2011 Donna Marykwas; All rights reserved.