If you’re in Hurricane Sandy’s path, stay safe, and check out these tips for disaster planning.
Disaster Planning for Vegetarians
By Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, updated Feb., 2011 by Corey Bivins
It may be a blizzard in the Northeastern US or a hurricane in the South, a tornado in the Midwest or an earthquake in the West. It may be a wild fire, an oil spill or even terrorism. Suddenly you’re left without electricity and possibly without safe water. The stove, freezer, refrigerator, microwave, and toaster oven aren’t working. Grocery stores are closed or may not have much on the shelves. Many groups have recommendations aimed at helping the general public cope with these kinds of disasters. They call for use of foods like canned tuna, canned meat, and powdered milk. What about vegetarians? What sort of plans should we make?
Most authorities recommend having enough non-perishable food and water on hand at all times to last at least 3 days. Depending on where you live and the types of disasters you anticipate occurring, you may want to have more food and water on hand. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website (http://www.hhs.gov/) recommends having enough food and water to last 1 to 2 weeks in case food and water supplies are disrupted due to pandemic flu. You should also have a 30-day supply of important prescription medicines on hand.
The foods that you choose for your disaster kit should require no refrigeration, minimal or no preparation or cooking, and little or no water. You can pick up a few items each time you shop and gradually build up your supplies. Once you have the food on hand, you will need to develop a system for replacing items as they get older; perhaps every six months or so you can plan to use the items you have and replace them with items you’ve just purchased.
Which non-perishable foods not requiring cooking should you have on hand? Suggested foods for vegetarians include ready-to-eat canned foods like vegetables, fruit, beans, and pasta; dried fruit; juice boxes or canned juice; powdered milk, either soy or cow’s (include extra water in your survival kit if you plan to use powdered milk); individual aseptic packages of milk (soy or cow’s); crackers; packaged breads with a long shelf-life; high energy foods like peanut butter and other nut butters, jelly, nuts, seeds, trail mix, granola and energy bars, cookies, and other snacks. Remember to include foods for those family members with special needs like infants or those with allergies. The sidebar shows one possible 3-day meal plan for a vegetarian family of four that does not require cooking or refrigeration.
Some may question the use of canned foods, however, the advantage of these foods is that they can be eaten right out of the can and don’t require cooking, water or special preparation. Look for low sodium and low sugar products. You can purchase cans of organically grown fruits and vegetables. Be sure to include a manual can opener in your disaster kit!
In the event that you are evacuated and must go to an emergency shelter, it is prudent to bring your emergency food kit along with you. Vegetarian diets are not the norm and in an emergency setting, you may or may not be able to find a variety of vegetarian foods unless you bring your own.
While this article features foods that are available in the supermarket, there are companies which make freeze-dried or air-dried foods. These do tend to be expensive. Some vegetarian items are available.
If you have a safe cooking source such as a wood or propane stove, solar cooker, outdoor grill, or a camping stove, you can prepare some simple hot foods. Non-perishable vegetarian foods which require minimal cooking and which can be prepared on a camping stove include canned soups; soups or meals “in a cup”; instant mashed potatoes; dry mixes for hummus or refried beans; quick cooking brown rice; couscous; textured vegetable protein (mix with tomato sauce and spices); ramen-type noodles; beverages like tea, cocoa, coffee or substitutes; and instant hot cereals. If you plan to use these foods in case of a disaster, you should include a selection of them in your emergency kit. Remember to have a safely stored supply of cooking fuel if necessary. Outdoor grills and camp stoves should only be used outdoors to insure proper ventilation.
Make sure you have a can opener, and scissors or a knife for cutting open packages. It would also be beneficial to have kettle, camping coffeepot, or pot for boiling water. If water is limited and dish washing is not possible, you will need to use disposable plates, cups and utensils so a supply of these will also be helpful.