Hurricane season is here, and before a storm is a threat ask yourself, are you prepared? Traditionally we think of flashlights, batteries, weather radios, plywood, sandbags, and tarps, but food supplies should be top of mind as well. A storm’s direction and impact can change at any time. Ensuring your family has necessary food supplies for the duration of the storm and after in case of power outages is essential in storm preparation.
Stocking Your Pantry
Choose non-perishable foods that are easy to prepare and ready to eat. Examples include dry cereal, dried or canned fruit, canned vegetables, soups, pasta, whole-wheat crackers, granola bars, peanut butter, canned tuna or chicken, canned beans, nuts, and dry milk. Consider the nutritional needs of family members that must follow special diets or need foods in a certain texture such as baby food for infants. It is important to have at least a five-to-seven-day supply on hand. The amount of water suggested is one gallon per person for the days listed above.
Proper Cooking & Tools
For foods that need to be heated, consider how you are going to prepare them. Are you using an outdoor grill or camping stove? What are the items you need to operate? If propane is needed, frequently check tank levels to avoid being surprised with an almost empty tank. Be sure to have a manual can opener on hand if you usually use an electrical opener. Do you know the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer? Be sure to always have a working thermometer. Keep your refrigerator at 40°F or below and freezer at 0°F. Speaking of thermometers, ensure you have a working, calibrated food thermometer to cook and reheat foods to the proper temperatures. For additional information on proper cooking temperatures visit: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/safe-temperature-chart
Keeping Food Safe
In preparation for a storm, freeze ice packs that can be used in coolers to extend the shelf-life of foods if the power goes out. If you lose power, keeping the refrigerator and freezer closed will help retain as much cold air as possible which can help keep food safer longer. Food can stay cold in a refrigerator for about 4 hours without power. Your freezer if it is full can maintain temperature for 48 hours if it is half full for about 24 hours. If temperatures reach below 40°F for longer than two hours, all food items must be thrown away. If you are not home at the time of the storm and unsure how long the power was out, throw it out! Any food that has been exposed to flood waters must be thrown away, it is not safe for consumption. Foodborne illness can occur and can put you and your family at risk of mild to severe illness.
For additional resources and a handbook on preparing for a storm and recovery visit https://disaster.ifas.ufl.edu/