Published on 09/15/04

Not just bread & milk

By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia

When a storm is headed in their direction, shoppers always rush to stock up on milk and bread. University of Georgia experts say having a supply of staple emergency food items is actually more important.

"In preparation for bad weather of any kind, every family should have at least a three-day emergency food supply on hand," said Elizabeth Andress, an Extension Service food safety specialist with the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Added peace of mind

Just knowing you have 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 your family," Andress said.

The size of your emergency food supply depends on the size of your family and home storage area. Remember, stock only nonperishable foods. You never know when you may lose electrical power.

"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. 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.

Pack enough for each family member

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, include vitamin and mineral supplements to assure proper nutrition.

Remember pets, too

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 your family pets, either. Be sure to include Fido's or Morris' food, treats and enough water for them, too.

Don't forget to include a hand-operated can opener, scissors and knife for opening food cans and 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 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.