Published on 02/20/03

Emergency food supply always a good idea

By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia

The threat of war has some Americans stocking up on home food supplies. Whether you agree with their logic, University of Georgia experts say having an emergency food supply is always a good idea.

"We aren't telling people to go out and stock their pantries because of the possibility of war. But we do agree it's a smart idea to stock your pantry for emergencies," said Elizabeth Andress, an Extension Service food safety specialist with the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Plan for at least three days

"Every family should have at least a three-day emergency food supply to fall back on," Andress said.

Having an emergency food supply, she said, eases the stress of emergencies and natural disasters.

"Whether it's a hurricane, tornado or snow storm, a natural disaster could prevent you from running to the grocery store to pick up supplies for dinner," Andress said.

"Having an emergency food supply on hand will provide peace of mind for you and your family," she said, "no matter what disaster may come your way."

The size of your emergency food supply depends on the size of your family and home storage area. Remember, stock only nonperishable foods.

Pick foods that don't need to be cooked or refrigerated

"Select foods that require no refrigeration, little or no cooking and little or no water," Andress said. "Chances are, if you're in an emergency situation, you aren't going to have the luxuries of electricity and running water."

Stock your food supply with ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables. Remember to buy containers you can use up in one meal or snack, since you most likely won't be able to refrigerate leftovers.

Add canned juices, soups and canned or powdered milk. Include bottled water for drinking and extra water to mix with the powdered milk and dilute the soups.

Supply enough fluids (milk, juice, water, etc.) so each family member can have at least 2 quarts per day.

Include staple foods such as sugar, salt and pepper, too, and high-energy foods like peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars and trail mix.

"Don't forget to throw in some comfort foods, too, like cookies, hard candy, sweetened cereals and instant coffee and tea," Andress said.

If you usually use them, be sure to include vitamin and mineral supplements to assure proper nutrition.

When stocking your emergency supply, keep in mind any special needs in your family. Have you included special foods for infants or elderly family members?

Don't forget hand-operated can opener

Don't forget to include a hand-operated can opener, scissors and knife for opening canned foods and foods in foil or plastic pouches. The last items in your supply should be disposable plates, cups and utensils.

"Once you have your food supply together, make a list of dates when food items need to be inspected and possibly rotated out. Then replace them with newly bought items," Andress said. "Canned foods can last two years. But for best quality, use them within one year."

Powdered milk may be stored 12 to 24 months. Use most of the other foods in your emergency supply within one year, or rotate them out. Over time, replace any rusty, leaky, dented or bulging food cans.

Once your emergency food supply is intact, store it in a cool, dry place. Store dry supplies off the floor in a clean, dry, dark place away from any sources of moisture.

Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.