Creating an Emergency Food Pantry

Written by Krista Farley & Susan Shew, American Red Cross – West Virginia Region

If a winter storm, derecho, thunderstorm or other disaster strikes your community, you might not have access to food, water or electricity for days or even weeks. One way to prepare for such disasters is to purchase and store emergency food and water supplies to ensure you can provide for your family.

Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food for each person in your household. You can use the canned goods and other staples in your pantry or cupboard. Make sure to check the expiration dates and rotate items to ensure you are using the oldest ones first. The best types of food require no refrigeration, water, special preparation or cooking. Don’t forget a manual can opener and disposable utensils.

If the electricity goes off, first use perishable food from the refrigerator, pantry or garden. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if it is unopened. Then use the foods from the freezer. Remember to limit the number of times you open the freezer door. In a well-filled, well-insulated freezer, foods will usually still have ice crystals in their centers, meaning the foods are safe to eat for at least two days. Finally, begin using non-perishable foods. Bacteria in food grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140° F, so if these foods are consumed, people can become very sick. It is important to have a food thermometer in your disaster kit to ensure your safety.

Suggested Emergency Food Supplies

•  Ready to eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables
•  Protein or fruit bars
•  Dry cereal or granola
•  Peanut butter
•  Jelly
•  Instant potatoes
•  Nuts
•  Crackers
•  Foods for infants if needed

Storage Tips

•  Keep food in a dry, cool, dark spot if possible.
•  Wrap perishable foods, such as cookies and crackers, in plastic bags and keep them in sealed containers.
•  Inspect all food for signs of spoilage before use.
•  Throw out canned goods that become swollen, dented or corroded.
•  Place new items at the back of the storage area and older ones in the front.

Staying Hydrated

If supplies run low, never ration water. Drink the amount you need today, and try to find more for tomorrow. You can minimize the amount of water your body needs by reducing activity and staying cool. To prepare the safest and most reliable emergency supply of water, it is recommended that you purchase commercially bottled water. Keep bottled water in its original container, and do not open it until you need to use it.

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