Food

After a major Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, the region will be under considerable strain. Page 6 of The Oregon Resilience Plan Executive Summary, discusses infrastructure recovery times in terms of months to years. It will take much longer than 2 weeks for a return to normalcy. The longer you can be self-sufficient, the better. I recommend being at least 3-Weeks-Ready but 2 weeks is a great start! Check out OEM’s 2-Weeks-Ready page for more info.

First thing’s first. Remember to store extra food for your pets! Great pet preparedness resources are available through the American Red Cross, Ready.gov, the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association, and the Oregon Humane Society. The photo to the right is my 3-year-old Lab-mix, Bear. Isn’t he handsome!

Reasons to enjoy emergency food preparedness

Get Processed Food
The Mayo Clinic suggests shopping the parameter of the grocery store rather than the center aisles. While this is great advice for everyday living, shopping for most emergency foods requires you to do the opposite!
Buy More Calories
The CDC has great information about cutting calories and eating healthy. This too is great advice for everyday living, but when it comes to buying your emergency food, you need to plan for enough calories! Buy more!
2 Week Vacation From Grocery Shopping
Planning meals during a normal week takes work. Some enjoy it. Most don’t. Being asked to plan out an additional two weeks of emergency meals may feel like a headache waiting to happen… however, if you slowly work toward making it a reality, when the time comes, not only will you be able to breathe a little easier knowing you and your loved ones have food, your meals will already be planned out! Work now. Rest then.
Control
The foods you buy can be items you actually like! If you don’t plan ahead, you are basically hoping others will have enough to feed you. You risk, seriously, not having enough food. If you are lucky enough to find some, will it be the types of food you can eat? Allergies or other food sensitivities may come into play. Will it be the types of food you like? Planning in advance gives you control over the outcome!

Benefits of having enough food you actually like to eat

  • You’ll have the energy necessary to do whatever needs to be done
  • Good food brings comfort and lowers stress
  • If you plan well… you might even have some extra coffee to brew

Remember to prepare for the more vulnerable people in your life.
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Ready to start shopping? WAIT! Not just yet

Calorie Needs

Before you start shopping for emergency meals, calculate the daily calorie needs for you and your family. Below is an example. Baylor College of Medicine is a good calorie calculator for kids, the Mayo Clinic’s calculator is great for adults. There are certainly other calculators out there. The point is to get a good grasp on the calorie needs of you and your loved ones… You don’t want to underestimate what you need.

Serving Size

Rather than just going out and buying food, I recommend planning one FULL MEAL or one day of meals at a time.

But be careful. Below are sample meal plans for 4 days. The column on the right shows calorie intake if one ONLY plans to eat the suggested SERVING SIZE.

My daily calorie needs are 2,250 (Active, 5’6”, 128lbs).

On the surface, these look like decent plans. However, if these were my planned meals & serving sizes after an emergency, I would eat a total of 2,915 calories over the 4 days. 6,400 is my minimum need if I’m INACTIVE! My need as an active mom with three kids trying to survive the aftermath of a major disaster would be between 7,800 and 9,000 calories. 2,915 won’t cut it.

I’d wind up in serious trouble. So would those I’m planning meals for… like my kids.

When you choose foods, pay attention to calorie count—not serving size! There aren’t any recognized guidelines for what constitutes a serving size. There are several things you can do to increase the calorie count in a situation like this… which is why planning your meals out is so important. You could:

  • Buy more packages of food per meal than what the serving size suggests
  • Add high-calorie snacks to eat in between meals
  • Plan for more than a single food choice per meal

Canned Goods

The City of Salem has a 24-week disaster preparedness calendar. Cans of non-perishables are listed as the only purchase suggestions for food. It’s great from a simple-messaging standpoint.

Based on the calendar, a family of five would buy 410 cans of food over the 24-week period. If I average the calories of my high-calorie canned goods, then multiply it by 410, I get 137,186 calories (334 calories/can). That would be enough for my family for 14 days, so the list does a good job of ensuring my family would not starve.

The calendar doesn’t specify which kinds of canned food to buy (veggies, fruit, soup, beans, chili). If you plan to go this route, ensure you are buying a good mix. Some cans have more calories than others, so pay attention! 410 cans of food weigh quite a bit! Make sure you stack/store cans in such a way that you can track expiration dates which typically run about two years. Keep in mind, rotating supplies is time-consuming, and will need to be done routinely.

Canned goods do not require adding water—which might be a plus if you haven’t stored 1 gallon of water per person per day (please aim to have that much water!). These can be eaten cold, but most are better warmed up. If you plan to warm them up before eating, you will need a way to cook AND water to clean the pan with… buy the water. If the can doesn’t have a pull-top, you will also need a good can opener.

Emergency Food Kits

There are many companies selling emergency food kits. Benefits to the kits include fewer planning sessions and fewer shopping trips. I like the freeze-dried meals because they generally have a high-calorie count, are lightweight, include meats and veggies, and have at least a 25-year life. But be cautious when buying preassembled kits!

4Patriots has a 4-week kit that supplies 1,357 calories per day. That would cover my 8-year-old’s needs if she was inactive all day or my 4-year-old’s needs if he functioned in the somewhat active range. Their activity levels tend to be much higher than that, of course, so this kit wouldn’t actually provide us with our daily calorie requirements for a full 4 weeks.

This situation is common with these types of kits. They are also expensive. If you want to look into companies that offer them, here is a list of options. Buying a kit could work as long as you plan to:

  • Find a kit with adequate calories
  • Or go through the emergency food faster than the stated 4 weeks
  • Or add supplemental food to your supply to make up the difference

Staples

A friend of mine, Dane Rogers, stresses the importance of dry staple foods like grains such as wheat, corn, oatmeal, rice and a wide variety of beans. They are calorie intensive, have long shelf lives, are easy to store and cook, and are cheap! If you can grow fresh fruits and vegetables in your garden, that’s awesome too!

You can buy 5 5lb bags of long-grain white rice for a total of $22. That purchase would net you 40,000 calories. In contrast, the 4Patriots kit discussed above has a total of 38,000 calories and costs $247. The rice provides far less variety, so it’s good to have a mix of options and keep in mind that white rice is less nutritious than other varieties. Be creative when you design your food plan. You won’t regret it!

White rice has a storage life of 8 to 10 years. Brown rice, which is certainly healthier, has a storage life of only about 6 months.

Other Items to Consider

In the green chart below, note the difference in calories between the red pasta sauce and the pesto! The pesto container is 1/3 the size of the marinara jar, yet the pesto has 3X the number of calories. As with the suggested serving size, container size is not a reliable basis for whether you have enough food. Focus on calorie count, and remember, this is your list! Personalize it. Buy items you will enjoy having. Keep in mind that food kept in cardboard boxes (cereal, crackers) may be subject to weevils or other bugs. Keeping them in totes could help protect them.

Cooking

In-home cooking uses electricity or natural gas. Following an earthquake, you are unlikely to have either, initially. To view expected electrical and natural gas outage durations in Oregon, visit page 126 of the Oregon Resilience Plan‘s energy chapter and check out Surviving Cascadia’s Electricity page.

Make sure you have a plan in place for cooking. The EcoZoom, StoveTec Super Pot, and Big Foot Deluxe Cookstove are all great options. They use very little wood/charcoal compared with other fire-burning stoves… which brings up the need to stock cooking fuel. It may not be wood. You may need fuel to run a generator for a stove.

Portland’s Jantzen Fuel Depot is not expected to do well during an earthquake. A 2022 article in the Statesman Journal lays out the added disaster that will unfold when the oil spills if action is not taken to harden the ground around the tanks. More information can be found in the OPB article: Quake Could Threaten 90 Percent Of Oregon Fuel Supply.

Yumei Wang, Senior Advisor on Infrastructure Resilience and Risk at Portland State University states, “I would say that, in general, the fuel that you have in your own car is what you’ll have for probably many, many weeks.” – OBP Unprepared Documentary If you’ll need extra, stock up ahead of time.

One type of cooking you could consider is Thermos Cooking. Click here for tips, reviews, and recipes.

Crockery and Cutlery

Unless you plan to eat right out of the can/bag, you’ll need things to eat on and with. If your dishes are ceramic, will they break during the shaking? If they survive, do you plan on having enough water and soap on hand to wash them? Remember, the dishwasher will be out of commision! One alternative is investing in disposable bowls, plates, and utensils. Make sure you have enough for 42 meals/person (14 days X 3 meals/day).

There are a few more resources listed below. The sooner you start this process, the better! Any food you can store is better than being stuck without any, so don’t let the size of this project stop you from taking that first step. Reach out if you have questions or comments.

City of Salem Emergency Manager, Greg Walsh, discusses emergency food supply. Note his discussion of hardening pantries! This video is awesome.

Other Food Preparedness Resources