Jacksonville, Fla. — August 24, 2012. As another storms brews in the Atlantic, residents of coastal communities are starting to prepare for a potential severe weather emergency. But hurricane shutters, flashlights and batteries are not the only things to consider. Food safety is critical to maintaining wellbeing during a natural disaster, and finding creative ways to feed a family can become an issue if refrigeration and electricity are unavailable.
MULTIMEDIA ALERT: Video and audio clips of Ron Stone, Nutrition Services at Mayo Clinic, are available for journalists to download on the Mayo Clinic News Network.
"Whether it's a hurricane or another natural disaster, it's critical to understand basic food and water safety, particularly if power outages or flooding occur. Having a plan in place will ensure proper nutrition, energy, and long-term wellness," says Sherry Mahoney, director of Nutrition and Food Services at Mayo Clinic in Florida.
She advises creating a meal plan in advance, "since most people aren't thinking about recipes (during a disaster), and refrigeration and cooking may become a problem."
But eating out of a can doesn't have to be boring, says Ron Stone, Assistant Director of Nutrition. "There are many options to mix and match from your pantry, and with advanced planning and a little creativity, you can provide healthy and delicious meals for your family," he says."
Under their direction, Mayo Clinic dietetic interns recently created sample three-day meal plans (PDF) to feed a family of four. The recipes do not require the use of power or refrigeration, but are still "colorful, exciting and nutritious," Mahoney says.
The recipe list (PDF) includes "Coconut Oatmeal Energy Bars," "Stir It Up Vanilla Pudding Parfait," "Reggie's Chopped Barbecue Chicken Salad on Flatbread" or "Chocoholic Peanut Butter Pie."
Here are tips from Stone for prepping your pantry and planning an emergency menu:
Know the safe temperature zones of perishable food. When the power goes out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold. The refrigerator, if unopened, will keep food cold for about four hours. A full freezer will maintain its temperature for around 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
Stock up on condiments, particularly those that are vinegar-based, which have a long shelf life and are versatile, such as ketchup, mustard, soy sauce and BBQ sauce. Consider travel-sized containers for convenience.
Keep canned protein on hand (chicken, salmon, beans and peanut butter).
Don't forgo the milk: Keep boxes of powdered milk or shelf-stable cartons on hand for cereal or deserts.
Dried fruits, nuts and spices can add a boost of flavor to otherwise bland dishes.
Don't forget a manual can opener.