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Fast Food for Emergency Meals?

By Janet M. Hackert, Regional Nutrition and Health Education Specialist in Harrison County,
University of Missouri Extension

Many Americans have fast food on a regular basis, making a quick stop at the drive-through. When emergencies strike, like the recent flooding or the inevitable tornados in NW Missouri, an emergency supply of food is needed – fast!  When stuck in a storm shelter for hours or days, the food stored there can make all the difference. After the emergency, especially if the power is out for a prolonged period, an appropriate emergency food supply is essential.

Having food on hand that doesn’t require much preparation or cooking is a good first step. In deciding what food to have on hand, think about how that food will taste after 2 or 3 days or even a week or more. Having a stockpile of cereal and crackers might help a family survive, but for a prolonged emergency, those foods will not supply nutritional needs and family members will soon tire of these. Good nutrition can help relieve some of the stress involved.

An emergency food supply, like a daily eating plan, should have foods from all the food groups, but in a form that requires no refrigeration or electricity to prepare. Some examples include dry cereal, crackers, canned fruit juice or juice boxes, applesauce cups, canned peaches/pears/pineapples, dried apple rings or dried plums, raisins, peanut butter, canned tuna or chicken, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, small boxes or jars of processed cheese spread, nonfat dry milk, tea bags, cocoa packets, and bottled water. If conditions are safe for using a can of sterno or a small grill, other items that require heating could be added to the list, such as cans of beef stew, chili, pork and beans and a variety of canned vegetables or canned soups. Be sure to add extra water to the emergency supply if foods will need to be reconstituted.

Think ahead about how these foods will fit into a meal plan for 2-7 days. Choose foods that will provide some variety from meal to meal and from day to day. For safety and quality’s sake, rotate foods back into the regular food supply every six months or so and replenish the emergency pantry with fresher items. Hopefully the foods will never be needed in an emergency; but if they are, old, stale, out-of-date, and perhaps even unsafe foods won’t be worth much.


Purdue University’s Extension Service has put together two weeks’ of sample menus on their website:


The Community Emergency Management Program of University of Missouri Extension has lots of useful information for getting prepared on their website at




Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009




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