A Natural Disaster Doesn’t have to Mean a Food Allergy Disaster
From whirling tornadoes in Middle America each spring to summer hurricane season in the South, raging wildfires out West and the blizzard conditions of the North, no matter where we live, chances are there is a natural disaster risk for each of us at some point each year.
For those of us with food allergies, a natural disaster can easily turn into a food disaster if we aren’t prepared! Grocery shelves can empty within 3 days after a natural disaster; however, it takes two to three weeks to restock them fully. And that is for mainstream foods. For special diets foods, which some stores only carry in limited supply to begin with, replenishing store shelves could take even longer. Worse yet, most emergency shelters and evacuation facilities are not likely to be able to accommodate individuals with special dietary needs. (While this changes bit by bit each year, it is still an area in need of improvement.)
To be sure we can get the foods we need on our special diet during a disaster, we must plan ahead.
With a quick trip to the market, we can have everything we need to pack a food allergy emergency preparedness kit to make sure the only disaster coming our way is the one Mother Nature renders.
Of course, the exact items needed will vary depending upon the exact type of emergency you’re planning for; however, this list contains food items to help reduce the risk of being without the foods you need during those first few days after a disaster.
How to Build a Natural Disaster Preparedness Kit for Individuals with a Food Allergy
1. Choose a container to store your foods. It should be able to close securely, lightweight and easy to carry. A backpack, duffel bag or small suitcase work well. Once your kit is packed, store it out of the way in a dry, secure place that is easy to access. A hook inside a coat closet is a convenient, yet out of the way place to hang your kit, keeping it off the floor, in case of flood.
2. Use zip top storage bags for organizing items and to keep items dry. These bags come in various sizes and also double as garbage bags for empty food containers and wrappers.
3. Plastic utensils, paper napkins, wet wipes and hand sanitizer come in handy. These store well in the zip top bags.
4. Of course, food is most important. Choose items that are long lasting, lightweight and very portable. These foods will need to withstand being stored in your kit for a period. In addition, you may need to carry your emergency kit while walking to a shelter or evacuation center. Select foods that suit your special dietary needs. Always read labels to make sure your foods are gluten-free and free from any other allergens you cannot consume. It’s also a great idea to keep the foods you choose as nutritious as possible.
Fruit leathers – Look for all-natural products like Stretch Island brand.
Meat jerky – Rocky Mountain Organic Meats offers organic grass-fed beef jerky that is gluten-free.
Dry soup mixes and broth granules are convenient to mix with hot water and can enhance other foods you may take along (like amaranth and quinoa or canned vegetables). Amaranth and quinoa cook much more quickly than rice, and are more nutrient dense. If you have boiling water, these make great choices for plant-based protein foods.
Small cans of beans and vegetables are usually gluten-free; low sodium varieties are great choices.
Also, consider adding items like salt and pepper, small seasoning packets, tea sachets, instant coffee.
Be sure to read labels on all products before purchasing to make sure they contain no gluten or other allergens you may need to avoid.
For an extensive list of gluten-free foods, visit the Gluten Free Resource Directory, where you can search by specific category to locate specific items.
Remember, the items listed here are suggestions for food and food-related items to pack in your emergency kit in the event of a natural disaster. In addition to these, other essential items should be included to complete your kit. For an extensive listing of natural disaster preparedness guides, please visit the National Weather Service Office of Climate, Water and Weather Services