Emergencies can occur anytime and they rarely come with a warning. Usually, it occurs in the wake of a natural disaster when the normal way of life is severely hit, affecting the supply of public utilities and food. Of all our requirements, food is of prime importance. We must see that our family has enough to eat, that the food is as nutritious as possible, and that we use this stock with care. So, here is a brief guide on how to plan emergency food.
What Are Emergency Foods?
In a nutshell, emergency foods are provisions and rations that we should store in case of a crisis. This could be for a short period, such as in the case of a natural calamity or for the long-term, such as an epidemic. Correspondingly, emergency food stocks can be for a few days or months. It is not always a calamity that needs such a crisis preparation. You may find it in shelters in remote areas or with campers.
Emergency foods are meant to help the survival of your family until help arrives. It ensures that your family has as much nourishment as possible when supplies are scarce. It can help you save money as prices become steep during a crisis. It can consist of perishable, non-perishable, and food grown in your backyard. The Humanitarian Charter and the Minimum Standards of the UN lays down a detailed operational framework for ensuring “people’s requirements for water and sanitation, food and nutrition, shelter and health care”. However, at a practical level, we must individually prepare for sudden emergencies.
What You Should Keep In Mind
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the US has detailed guidelines to help people prepare for disasters and emergencies. This includes advice on food planning. Here are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Plan ahead: Prepare a strategy based on how much you need, your family requirements, supply chains, and your own capabilities.
- Determine a time-frame: The DHS recommends that you store for at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food in case of a sudden calamity. For long-term preparedness, it is advisable to stock for at least a month.
- Choose nourishing, but tasty food: Fortunately, modern food processing techniques have helped us in preserving the health quotient of preserved food to a very high degree. But while you focus on the nourishment, remember to stock food that your family will actually eat. Stocking unfamiliar or unpopular food will add to your family’s stress and discontent.
- Dietary needs: Always keep any special dietary needs of your family in mind when stocking food. Factors that you have to consider are food allergies and medical conditions that require dietary restrictions, such as diabetes.
- Water management: The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service lays special emphasis on water management, especially in the case of a long-term stay. Focus on both the storage of water and if you need purification tools.
- Careful consumption: Plan out your meals and eat only as much as you should. It always pays to be careful and see that your stock lasts as long as possible.
Best Non-Perishable Foods You Can Stock
When planning your food stocks, it can help to think of food in terms of perishable and non-perishable. The former will be good for a week with careful planning, while the latter can be stored for months. It also helps to think of balanced meal requirements. Plan for carbs that you can cook, fats, preserved meats, and canned vegetables and fruits. The DHS recommends the following foods for an emergency kit:
- Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables, and a can opener
- Protein or fruit bars
- Dry cereal or granola
- Peanut butter
- Dried fruit
- Canned juices
- Non-perishable pasteurized milk
- High energy foods
- Food for infants
- Comfort/stress foods, such as dried pasta and pasta sauces
We would also recommend powdered milk, multivitamins, trail mixes, canned soups, 100 percent vegetable powders, nuts, water, and whole wheat crackers. Carbs like rice, quinoa, and pasta can be prepared easily. If you are an adept baker, you can even store yeast to make bread. Dried and preserved meats and fishes can add flavor to many meals, apart from providing proteins. It always pays to have quick, but high energy foods like trail mix, nuts, and peanut butter. Finally, take care to stock comfort foods and family favorites like pasta.
To ensure that your food lasts as long as possible, it is important to pay attention to food storage. Perishable items should be frozen or refrigerated and consumed as quickly as possible. This is possible only if there is electricity available. Canned and bottled goods should be stored in a clean, dry place. Keep checking the shelf-life of the stored foods. Remember, even non-perishable foods have an expiry date. Discard any swollen or cracked cans. Be diligent about food sanitation. The last thing you want is scrambling for medical support.
When The Power Goes Out
Be prepared for the power to go out without warning. As per the DHS, refrigerated food stays good for 4 hours. Frozen food can last for longer. But you are in trouble if your frozen goods begin to thaw. Open the refrigerator or freezer as little as you can during this period. It also pays to be ready with dry ice. You will need 25 pounds of dry ice to keep a 10-cubic-foot freezer at below freezing point for 3 to 4 days.
So be aware, be prepared, and stay healthy!