GAINESVILLE, Fla. — There’s nothing like trying to eat when the refrigerator and kitchen lights don’t work. That’s what some will face this hurricane season. University of Florida experts urge everyone to stock up on non-perishable food so you’ll have plenty to eat if the power goes out.
Electrical outages and contaminated water are just two reasons to buy plenty of canned and pre-packaged food, says Keith Schneider, a professor of food science and human nutrition at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Most people wait until the storm is just off the coast before buying food that won’t spoil, just as they rush to buy bottled water and batteries, Schneider said. If you wait too long, stores my run low on these supplies.
“Most people don’t think about having food in a container that can be opened when the power is out,” he said. People will buy canned food, but they may only have an electric can opener. Buy food you can open without electricity or invest in a manual can opener. “People also don’t necessarily think of food that can be eaten without cooking. Many shelf-stable foods may need added water and cooking, like rice and noodle products. After a hurricane, the water may become contaminated and if the power is out, the microwave isn’t going to work.”
As you prepare for hurricane season, Schneider gives a few other tips about food and water:
- Buy and use plastic silverware and paper plates because your dishwasher is likely not going to be working, Schneider said. “Contaminated water and power outages are common, thus you won’t be able to wash your dinnerware.”
- Stock up on water. The key issue last year during Hurricane Irma was the lack of bottled water.
- If you have a gas grill, make sure you have a full tank and/or a reserve. That way you can cook food that is perishable during the first days of a power outage.
- Buy a non-electric can opener.
- Buy antibacterial wipes, pet food, shelf-stable food that doesn’t require heating.
Nan Jensen, a family and consumer sciences agent for UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County, gives these pre-hurricane food recommendations:
- When stocking up on foods, consider those family members with special dietary needs like those with high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease or another health condition that requires a special menu.
- Remember the little ones. Make sure to have plenty of formula and baby food on hand.
- Keep protein and other basic food groups in mind. Healthy Grain Options: High-fiber, low-sugar cereals are a good choice to help you and your family meet your daily nutritional requirements. Rye crisps and whole-wheat crackers as well as rice cakes are good. Fruits and Vegetable Options: Fresh fruits like oranges, apples and bananas that don’t require refrigeration provide that much needed “fresh flavor” people crave, and they’re nutritious. Unsweetened fruit in single-serving packages and dried fruit add to your healthy meals kit. When fresh or frozen isn’t an option, canned varieties of vegetables can provide essential nutrients. Look for those that are reduced sodium or no salt added.
- Healthy Dairy Options: Powdered or shelf-stable milk, in single-serving boxes provide a source of calcium for the “surviving-the-storm” food box.
- Healthy Protein Options: Canned tuna, chicken and salmon are good as are beans, boxed tofu, nuts, seeds and nut butters.
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.