What types of food should you include in an emergency kit?

When preparing for a disaster, you’ll want to build an emergency kit that includes food and water. (Don’t forget the can opener!) While stocking up, purchase foods that:

  • Have a long storage life.
  • Require little or no cooking, water, or refrigeration in case utilities are disrupted.
  • Meet the needs of infants or other family members on special diets.
  • Meet your pets' needs.

Build up your emergency pantry over time when grocery shopping to make the task easier. Some examples of foods to include are:

  • Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables.
  • Protein or fruit bars.
  • Dry cereal or granola and dried fruit.
  • Peanut butter.
  • Canned juices and non-perishable pasteurized milk.
  • High-energy foods.
  • Food for infants.
  • Comfort/stress foods.
  • Food for pets.

Food Safety and Sanitation

Without electricity or a cold source food stored in refrigerators and freezers can become unsafe. Bacteria in food grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit and if these foods are consumed you can become very sick. Thawed food usually can be eaten if it is still “refrigerator cold.” It can be re-frozen if it still contains ice crystals. Remember “When in doubt, throw it out.”


  • Keep food in covered containers.
  • Keep cooking and eating utensils clean.
  • Throw away any food that has come into contact with contaminated flood water.
  • Throw away any food that has been at room temperature for two hours or more.
  • Throw away any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
  • Use ready-to-feed formula. If you must mix infant formula use bottled water or boiled water as a last resort.


  • Eat foods from cans that are swollen, dented or corroded, even though the product may look safe to eat.
  • Eat any food that looks or smells abnormal, even if the can looks normal.
  • Let garbage accumulate inside, both for fire and sanitation reasons.

How much water should I store for emergencies?

You should store at least one gallon of water daily for each person and pet in the household. Consider storing more water than this for hot climates, and pregnant or sick people. If tap water is available, follow local health guidelines and boil it before use if advised to do so.

Another consideration you’ll want to make is having enough water to maintain proper hygiene and sanitation during an emergency. You should wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling any food items, but if water is scarce, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content.  You should consider using disposable plates, cups and utensils to minimize washing requirements.

Consider how you will cook during an emergency and add alternative heating sources to your kit including:

Alternative cooking sources can be used in times of emergency including candle warmers, chafing dishes, fondue pots or a fireplace. Charcoal grills and camp stoves are for outdoor use only.

  • Candle warmers.
  • Chafing dishes.
  • Fondue pots.
  • Charcoal grills and camp stoves (outdoor use only).  
Commercially canned food may be eaten out of the can without warming. To heat food in a can: 
  1. Remove the label.
  2. Thoroughly wash and disinfect the can. (Use a diluted solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water.)
  3. Open the can before heating

How do I store food so that it lasts?

Disasters and emergencies can disrupt the supply chain that provides access to fresh food along with ways to keep it safe.

How you store your food can help give it a longer shelf life: 

  • Store items in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Place them on high shelves to keep them safe from minor household flooding.
  • Consider airtight or waterproof containers for foods that come in paper boxes or cartons to keep out insects or rodents.
  • Check expiration dates on canned foods and dry mixes. 
  • Store fresh foods away from ranges or refrigerator exhausts. Heat causes many foods to spoil more quickly.

What are some dangers during a power outage?

Managing food supplies without power: To ensure proper food storage, refrigerated or frozen foods must be kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. During a power outage, food safety becomes a concern due to the risk of bacterial growth and potential foodborne illnesses without a means to keep food cold.

During a power outage, follow these 5 tips to keep your food safe for longer: 

  1. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. An unopened refrigerator can maintain its temperature for about four hours, while a freezer can stay cold for approximately 48 hours. 
  2. Pack refrigerated and freezer items closely together to help retain cold temperatures for longer. However, be aware of separating ready-to-eat foods from raw meat, poultry and seafood. 
  3. Freeze containers of water in advance to help prolong the coldness of the freezer during a power outage. 
  4. If the power outage lasts for an extended period or if the temperature rises above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it is recommended that you discard the food.
  5. Keep a thermometer handy to monitor the temperature inside your refrigerator or freezer.