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Is it a good idea to store food for emergency?

September 4, 2011
By ANITA HANABURGH , The Leader Herald

Irene, you have stolen our hearts. Like the rest of you, I was glued to the television this past weekend. I watched the storm blow its way into the Atlantic coastline and spill its fury into our waterways. I watched with fear and concern as Tropical?Storm Irene took her toll on property and gratefully passed by my family. As I continued to watch last week, I felt guilty for safely missing most of Irene's message. I thought of my New York City daughters being spared the brunt of the damage. I thought, this time we have a roof over our heads, dry homes, electricity, water and cable TV. This time we are safe.

Several weeks ago, I started writing an article about storing food for emergencies after hearing an ad for Food Insurance, which is recommended by radio personality Glenn Beck. I began investigating. Is it a scam or a necessity? What about the idea of stock piling food?

I didn't write the article then, because I was in the process of "Feng Shui-ing" my house. I had just cleaned out the attic, bedrooms and basement. I got down to three cans in the kitchen cupboard and it felt good. Food Insurance? You have got to kidding! Keeping enough food to feed your family for a year? Get real!

But, oh busboy, when Irene's rains were pelting the windows and the lights were flickering, I decided to revisit the idea.

Food Insurance and its counterpart are basically companies that sell food items that are neatly packaged together for long term and emergency storage. The food can be purchased in number of meals, say 948 entrees, or days of service, such two or three months. Most of it is freeze dried and can have a shelf life of 10 to 25 years.

When considering the need to store food, there are really two questions:

1.) Do I need to store food for emergencies?

2.) Do I need to purchase a comprehensive package of food items from a company such as Food Insurance?

I say, "It's a good idea" to number one, and "No, not really" to number two.

In the past decade, many people feel there is a greater possibility of an emergency occurring in their lives. They have experienced 9/11, Katrina, Irene, earthquakes, tornados, drought, etc. There are clearly times when emergency food might be needed. Also, many people feel keeping stored food will fight against inflation should the price of bread hit $15. Emergency food also could be used if people lose their job or have financial difficulties.

There also are arguments against keeping food for emergencies. It ties up money that could be used for other needs. Food is perishable and needs to be rotated. Stored food is extra stuff that need to be cared for, dusted, counted, moved, kept from freezing or overheating. Stored food takes up space that is needed and many homes have very little. Large amounts of stored food are not portable. Storing food assumes you are staying where the food is stored. If you have to leave for a flood or fire or war, the stored food is lost.

Oh busboy? What to do? To store or not to store. I guess I'm for storing food, but in moderation.

Here are a some ideas for storing food for emergencies:

1.) Have an emergency kit as recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. You can do this yourself. Go online and visit for details.

2.) Have water. FEMA recommends keeping three days' supply of one gallon of water per person per day. Purchasing a water filter (the kind you take camping) is a great idea.

3.) Begin to build up your emergency supply from the food you already have. You probably have enough food in your cupboards to keep you fat and happy for week or so. You can start there.

4.) Start slowly. Ask yourself, what do I need for three days, a week and a month? What can I afford to put away? Designate a storage spot and begin to fill it with extras, sales, bulk items, etc.

5.) Don't start with a commercial program. Test the waters and see if this is something you can do or want to do. Don't' get caught in the "Gloom and Doom" advertising or fear mongering of expensive commercial programs. Food Insurance food is very pricey, ranging in the thousands of dollars for a year's food supply. And, although it says its gourmet, it's still packaged, dried foods.

6.) Store only those items you regularly use. Buy only food you will eat. Not everyone agrees with me on this as there is a huge dried food industry built around emergency food preparedness. There are a lot of packaged foods you use every day that last a long time. I worked for three weeks helping out during Hurricane Katrina and never once did we open the cartons and cartons of government issued MRI's.

7.) Don't store more than three months. The odds are tremendously in your favor that you will never need a week's worth of food much less three months or a year. Wouldn't you think that after three months you might start looking for an alternative plan?

8.) Check the dates on the foods you regularly use.

Next week, I will serve you information about shelf life and use-by dates so you can make a good storage plan.

Stay safe and dry.




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