Regardless of where you live, every family should have a disaster pantry: a 3-day supply of water and nonperishable food to provide sustenance in case of emergency. During a disaster, you may be on your own for 72 hours (perhaps even longer) as rescuers attend to those most in need.
What Should I Buy?
Preplanning is essential. Assume you’ll be without electricity, gas and the ability to cook. For portability and ease, make sure your disaster kit contains enough food for every family member. You can purchase extra emergency food packs and energy bars (with a 5-year shelf life), as needs dictate. If you’re at work, in your car or on the go, make sure you’ve made similar preparations.
“Remember to think about special dietary needs, such as baby food, vitamins and protein drinks,” says Lorraine Whiffen, director of program services for Island Harvest, a Mineola, New York-based organization that helps fight hunger by feeding tens of thousands of Long Island residents. She also recommends supplementing your pantry with nonperishable comfort foods, particularly if you have children. They will seek a sense of normalcy during a stressful time.
“Items such as protein or fruit bars, canned foods and juices, dry cereal and granola bars, peanut butter, dried fruit, nuts, crackers and nonperishable pasteurized milk are good choices,” she says. “Be sure the items won’t require refrigeration during storage or after opening. Include a manual can opener or cans that have tab openings, disposable utensils and cups, and moist wipes to help with limited preparation and cleanup.”
You need to have approximately one gallon of emergency water per person, which should cover drinking and sanitation needs over a 72-hour period. If you live in a warmer climate, it’s a good idea to buy extra emergency supplies.
How Do I Store Food Items?
“Nonperishable food and water should be stored in a cool, dry area—off the floor or even higher in flood-prone areas,” Whiffen says. “Never put them above the stove, under the sink, in a damp garage or basement, or anyplace exposed to high or low temperature extremes.”
The biggest mistakes people make are neglecting to create and maintain their disaster pantries. You can learn about food shelf life and how to read package labels by clicking here.
“Since a pantry consists of nonperishable items, people sometimes think that they’ll be able to just grab from what they have when the time comes,” Whiffen says. “Others prepare and put their items in a safe place, but never look at them again until they are needed. Periodic rotation of supplies is also something to remember, giving you an opportunity to review your family’s overall disaster response plan, including updating emergency phone numbers and exit routes from your home.”