Anyone who has heard disaster preparedness recommendations probably knows a three-day emergency food supply is on the list. But just what does that mean? LSU AgCenter nutritionist and food safety expert Beth Reames has the answers.
“On top of having ample food and water on hand to last the first few days after a storm or other emergency, you also need to have some way to prepare the food or keep what you’re eating safe to consume,” Reames says. “When making your plans, you have to keep in mind the conditions you’ll be operating under.
“You may be without power, which means you may not have a way to heat things up or refrigerate them.”
That means the foods you have on hand will need to be adapted to those conditions, Reames stresses.
Some of the potential foods you could include are single-serving cereal packages, crackers, granola bars, canned fruit, canned juice, packaged drink mixes, raisins, apple sauce, canned vegetables, canned soups or chili, tuna, canned chicken, beef jerky, peanut butter, canned milk or other shelf-stable milk, shelf-stable cheese, hard candy and chocolate.
Reames also says you’re going to need at least 2 quarts — and preferably a gallon — of water for each person per day.
“Choose commercially bottled water or store water from your household system in clean containers for brief time periods when you think you might need it,” she says.
The LSU AgCenter nutritionist also offers these tips to keep in mind when choosing the foods:
• Choose nonperishable foods that require little or no cooking and no refrigeration.
• Can or jar sizes should be appropriate for one meal with no leftovers. Once opened or prepared, many foods lose their shelf-stable character and will go bad.
• Select foods you like and normally eat.
• If you don’t have a way to boil water when the power is off, do not include instant foods that will require hot water. Keep in mind foods that require water also will consume your water supply quickly.
• Keep a supply of disposable plates, bowls, cups and utensils on hand. Otherwise, you could use far too much of your water supply washing dishes.
• Don’t forget baby food, special dietary requirements and food for your pets.
The LSU AgCenter expert says to buy — and practice using — a hand-crank can opener if you don’t have one already. “You’ll need it to open that can of tuna when the power goes off,” she says.
As you assemble your food and other disaster supplies, keep them in a central location — above potential flood level. “You also want to store food in the coolest cabinets or a pantry away from appliances that produce heat,” she says, adding, “Store food that comes in cardboard boxes, thin plastic or paper in metal, glass or rigid plastic containers to avoid insect and rodent damage.”
The LSU AgCenter nutritionist also stresses that you can acquire and store your three-day food supply early but that you want to rotate and use food and water every six to 12 months — or as recommended on the food labels.
For more information on emergency preparedness and a variety of other topics related to health and nutrition, visit www.lsuagcenter.com.