Emergency Food Supplies
If a natural or man-made disaster strikes your community, you might not have access to food, water, and electricity for some time. It’s important to take steps now to store emergency food so that you will be prepared if something happens.
Storage and Planning
- Store foods that you eat regularly. Foods that require no refrigeration, preparation, or cooking are best.
- Avoid canned goods that have become swollen, dented, or corroded.
- Keep your hands clean — it's one of the best ways to keep from getting sick. If soap and running water are not available, use alcohol-based hand gels or wipes to clean hands.
- Inspect all food for signs of spoilage before use. Throw out perishable foods, such as meat and poultry, that have been left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
- If there's a power outage, eat food in the refrigerator first, the freezer next, and finally from your stored supplies.
- Store enough food for two weeks. It is better to have extra you can share than to run out.
- Individuals with special diets and allergies will need particular attention; this includes babies and the elderly. Nursing mothers may need liquid formula, in case they are unable to breastfeed. Canned dietetic foods, juices, and soups may be helpful for those with special needs.
- Make sure you have a manual can opener and disposable utensils.
- Keep food in a dry, cool spot—out of the sun, if possible.
- When cooking during an emergency, make sure to use grills or camp stoves outdoors to avoid smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning. Use them more than 20 feet away from your home.
- If you heat food in its can, be sure to open it and remove the label before heating.
- Never leave open flames unattended.
Replace your stored food on a regular basis.
Within six months, use:
- Boxed potatoes
- Dried fruit
- Dry, crisp crackers
- Powdered milk
Within one year, use:
- Canned soups
- Canned fruits, fruit juices, and vegetables
- Canned nuts
- Peanut butter
- Ready-to-eat cereals and uncooked instant cereals
In proper containers and conditions, the following can be stored indefinitely:
- Bouillon products
- Dried corn
- Dry pasta
- Instant coffee, tea, and cocoa
- White rice
- Page last reviewed: January 31, 2014
- Page last updated: May 15, 2014
- Content source:
- CDC Emergency Risk Communication Branch (ERCB), Division of Emergency Operations (DEO), Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (OPHPR)