Published on 10/01/99

Y2K or Not, Emergency Food Supply a Good Idea

Logically, Amy Hopper doesn't think the arrival of the new century is going to affect her family's food supply. But the mother of two young children isn't taking any chances.

"Every time I go grocery shopping, I buy an extra bag of sugar, an extra bag of flour, a box of powdered milk and a gallon of water," Hopper said. "I don't think we'll actually have to have it. But we can always use it."

University of Georgia food experts support Hopper's logic.

Storing Extra Food is a Smart Idea

"We aren't telling people to go out and stock their pantries because of Y2K. But we are telling them 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. "Every family should have at least a three-day emergency food supply to fall back on."

Andress said having an emergency food supply cuts down on the stress level in 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."

Select the Right Foods for Emergency Conditions

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

"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 that can be used up in one meal or snack, since you will most likely be unable to refrigerate leftovers.

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

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

Your supply should also include staple foods such as sugar, salt and pepper and high-energy foods like peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars and trail mix.

Remember the Extras

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

And don't forget your vitamins. Be sure to include vitamin, mineral and protein 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 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 food supply should be disposable plates, cups and utensils.

Replenish Your Supply Yearly

"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. Most of the other foods in your emergency supply should be used or rotated out within one year. Over time, replace any food cans which may be rusty, leaky, dented or bulging.

Now that 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.

(Photo by Sharon Omahen, University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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