Emergency Food Supplies During/After Winter Storms Back »

Written by Sharon Guthmiller, former SDSU Extension Food Safety Field Specialist.


If an emergency, such as a winter storm, strikes your community, access to electricity, water and food may be shut down for an indefinite period of time. Be proactive in providing for your family by taking time to store emergency food and water supplies in case of an unexpected emergency.

Consider maintaining a food supply that can last from one week up to two weeks. It may not be necessary for you to purchase foods to prepare for an emergency.

Foods to Include

  • Shelf stable foods-canned goods, dry mixes, and other staples from your cupboard shelves may be used. 
  • Foods that require no special preparation, refrigeration, water or cooking will work best. These can be eaten cold or heated in a fireplace, on an outdoor grill or camp stove. Canned foods can be warmed quickly and serve as both cooking pot as well as serving dish, or they may be eaten cold. Dried beans, although easy to store, are not a good choice when it comes to actual preparation in an emergency setting. 
  • Store canned and dried foods at temperatures between 40° F and 70° F. Canned and dried foods can be stored for up to one year; however, food quality and nutritional value may be reduced. Occasionally, plan to use stockpiled foods for regular meals and replace with new items. 
  • Foods that are familiar to family members can offer a sense of security during stress associated with an emergency. 

Prepare only the amount of food needed for one meal and discard any perishable left-overs if refrigeration is not available. Microorganisms that cause food-borne illness grow rapidly at room temperatures in foods such as soups, meat, milk, pasta, vegetables and legumes. 

What About Water?

Water may be stored also for use in emergencies. Water, if boiled and stored in sterilized containers will keep for six months up to one year. Ten minutes of boiling water at a rolling boil will kill disease-causing bacteria. A pinch of salt may be added to each quart to improve the taste. Water can also be treated by use of chemical treatments also, if necessary. Bottled water may also be stored for use. Be sure to check the stockpiled bottled water at various intervals and use that water before the use-by date. Replace bottled water with a new supply. 

For more in-depth information regarding preparing and storing emergency food and water supplies, visit FEMA, USDA FSIS, or Ready.gov.


This article was adapted from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's "Food and Water in an Emergency" publication.

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