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Preparing emergency food supplies proves beneficial
By Carrie Reeves
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- With hurricane season underway and the potential for flooding across parts of Mississippi, now is a good time to put together emergency food supplies and other necessities in the case of a disaster.
Food items with a long shelf life are recommended, but prepare early, because these products disappear from stores quickly when disaster warnings are issued.
"Plan to have enough food and water for each person in the household for three days," said Rebecca Kelly, human nutrition specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "Store a gallon of water per person per day for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene."
A three-day emergency food supply should contain foods that a family likes and normally eats. Pack foods that are non-perishable, require no refrigeration, and little or no cooking. Foods that come in cardboard boxes and thin plastic or paper containers should be stored in metal or hard plastic containers to avoid rodent and insect damage and damage from moisture.
Assemble all prescription medicines, any special dietary requirements, plenty of baby food, and water and food for pets ahead of time.
"Pack instant foods only if families have a way to boil water. After a major storm or flood, all water sources are considered contaminated until proven safe. To purify water, boil at a rolling boil for five minutes, then cool," Kelly said.
"Always plan to have food and other disaster supplies on hand," Kelly said. "Rotate and use your emergency food and water supplies every six months to keep them fresh."
Kelly shared several tips to ensure the quality of emergency foods. Use food before it goes bad, and replace it with fresh food supplies. Inspect supplies to make sure no seals or boxes are broken or cans are dented or bulging. Keep supplies in a central location above potential flood levels, and discard any items that may have been affected. Store food in a cool place away from heat-producing appliances and protect these items from rodents and insects.
"After the storm, consider all foods that have been in contact with flood water to be contaminated," Kelly said. "Many items, including meats, fresh produce, food in canisters, and wooden and plastic utensils, will have to be thrown out. Undamaged canned goods and commercial glass jars of food are generally safe to eat after they have been sanitized."
The amount of food people need will depend on their age, gender, physical condition and activity level. Families should store food supplies based on these factors. Nutritionists offer several general guidelines for emergency food supplies based on the Food Guide Pyramid, which should be followed in non-emergency situations as well.
Six to 11 servings from the bread, cereal, rice and pasta group per person per day are recommended for a healthy diet. Some foods that have good shelf lives are crackers, pretzels, ready-to-eat cereal, granola bars and popcorn cakes. Instant foods, such as prepared cups of noodles and instant cereal and rice, also can be counted as servings, but these foods require extra water and a way to boil it.
"In the event of a power outage, frozen foods are safe to refreeze or cook and eat if ice crystals are still visible and the foods feel as cold as if refrigerated," Kelly said. "Fully thawed foods held above 40 degrees for more than two hours have been under conditions that support rapid bacterial growth and are not safe to eat."
The Food Guide Pyramid calls for two to four servings of fruit daily, which includes canned fruit, fruit roll-ups, applesauce, dried fruits and fruit juices. The vegetable group calls for three to five servings daily. Canned vegetables and soups, as well as instant potatoes meet the nutritional requirements in this category.
Nutritionists call for two to three daily servings from the meat, poultry and fish group, including foods such as nuts, dried beans, canned meats like tuna or chicken, soup with meat, canned spaghetti and beef jerky.
The milk and dairy group also calls for two to three servings per day. Store boxed milk or soy milk, canned evaporated milk and canned puddings to meet this requirement. For foods in this group, families may need extra water.
For more information, contact: Dr. Rebecca Kelly, (662) 325-3080