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What is Emergency Food?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Emergency food can refer to various types of foods that don’t perish easily, can be prepared quickly and safely (usually without heat), and that may be stored in emergency kits for things like camping or in disaster preparedness kits. There are many different types of emergency food. Some of these are more expensive and durable, and others can be easily purchased from grocery stores. When stocking things like emergency or earthquake preparedness kits, it’s recommended people have emergency food for up to two weeks.

Some forms of canned foods are ideal emergency food, but read labels carefully. If canned foods must be fully heated before consumption they may not be safe to use when a heat source isn’t available. Items that may not require heating include many fruits and vegetables and most canned fruit juices. Pay attention to those items that contain meat, as these may need to be fully reheated to be safe.

Other emergency food supplies can include things that don’t perish quickly, like granola bars, vacuum-sealed packages of nuts or trail mix, and peanut butter or jelly. People packing for home kits should be especially wary of any types of food allergies a family member may have. When creating an emergency food supply, don’t pack things family members may be allergic to, or add detailed lists that note each person’s allergies. Long emergencies where access to medical facilities might be difficult or impossible mean people should not take unnecessary risks with foods that could cause strong allergy or illness.

Many people prefer to pack things like Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), which can heat without any type of water or heat source. These can include full meals, and some are vegetarian. MREs are available at various camping supply stores, and some warehouse stores like Costco can stock drums of MREs for purchase specifically for emergency preparedness or disaster kits.

MRES may be a better choice for those who expect not to have access to much. For instance, those camping or hiking may want to keep these in case of sudden weather changes, or if a person gets lost. They are also lighter to carry than canned items.

There are many useful guides for preparing an emergency supply of food, and for choosing the best emergency food types. Look to organizations like the Red Cross, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for guides on what to pack in an emergency food kit, and when to replace various packed emergency foods. Don’t forget the importance of an emergency water supply. Such agencies have guidelines on how much water to pack too.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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