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So far, so good this hurricane season. I hope I’m not asking for bad luck by mentioning it, but we’re moving into the more active part of the season.
If you haven’t done it already, it’s time to prepare your hurricane kit. There are lots of lists available for these kits and I encourage you to find one and follow the advice.
But, most of these lists are fairly limited when it comes to advice about food and food safety. They usually say something like “shelf stable foods” or “an emergency food and water supply”. I’d like to expand up on this a little.
My first suggestion is to think about the food you already have in your house. You may want to start using up the food in your freezer to avoid loss if there is a power outage. As you do this, replace the food with containers of water. This will give you ice or drinking water down the road and will also help keep food in that appliance cold if the power is out. A freezer that is full will keep cold longer.
A couple of food safety related items that could be added to your kit include freezer and refrigerator thermometers (these are good to have all year round, not just in an emergency). Place a thermometer in both the freezer and refrigerator. This way you can tell the temperature the inside these appliances if the power goes out.
Also get a tip-sensitive digital food thermometer like they use in restaurants. This will allow you to check the actual temperature of the food. The best way to determine if food left in the fridge or freezer is safe to eat is to know its temperature. Food kept below 41 degrees is safe.
One more piece of kitchen equipment that’s important: a hand-operated can opener.
Now, think specifically about what foods you’ll have you can set aside for a hurricane food kit. Being prepared and having a food plan can really help reduce your stress and anxiety and will provide healthy meals during an emergency.
Quite often the food people eat during a hurricane was randomly picked up at the last minute at the closest store. Usually very little thought is really given to how these foods will be eaten, meal planning or nutrition for three daily meals. Take a little time now to look through the food on-hand and what kinds of meals you could make with this food. You may need to purchase a few items to augment this list.
A few specific suggestions:
- Choose foods your family will eat.
- Food should require little or no cooking, water or refrigeration, in case utilities are disrupted.
- Think about extra food for people on special diets.
- Consider food for babies and children including baby food and formula.
- Don’t forget extra food for pets.
- Foods shouldn’t be salty or spicy, because these foods increase the need for drinking water which may be in short supply.
When we were teaching classes about hurricane preparedness, one of the things that people commented the most on that they wished they had the morning after the hurricane hit was….COFFEE. If coffee is important to you in the morning, you might want to plan ahead and think about how you could make a hot cup of coffee if the power is out. Instant coffee? Generator to run your pod coffee maker? Use the grill to heat water? An old fondue pot with a candle?
Check out the Hurricane Cookbook program in the Family and Consumer Science (FCS) section of our local NC Brunswick County Cooperative Extension website. We have a sample hurricane shopping list and recipes that use these foods. There is also a link to a YouTube video featuring our FCS Agent, Meghan Lassiter and Sydney Knowles FCS Agent from Sampson County talking about Hurricane Foods. Worth a look!
I know all of this material is available on-line, but you may want to print off the food safety information and some of the recipes. Store these with your hurricane food kits. Who knows if you’ll have power or the internet when you need them.
Another resource I would recommend is the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service’s Food Safety Information Center. It’s on Facebook and Twitter @SafePlatesFSIC. It’s a good resource all year round, but during the last hurricane they were on-line posting and answering food preparation and food safety questions.
Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center 910-253-2610 or by email at Cheryle_Syracuse@ncsu.edu