Saturday, April 13, 2013

Food Storage and Food Security

Its supposed to be Spring, here in South Dakota. At least that is what the calendar says. But nature has another calendar it is apparently going by! This week we got hit with 3 inches of sleet, then 2 inches of snow before the first storm ended. Within two days a second storm hit us with 8 more inches of snow! We were the "lucky ones". Less than 60 miles south of us, in Sioux Falls, people struggled with freezing rain & inches of ice on trees, power lines & everything else. Leaving 20,000 homes without power in wintery cold conditions. Trees crashed into homes & vehicles, as nature showed its last minute winter wrath on the area. This whole ordeal made me re-evaluate my food security as it relates to being able to cook, clean & use basic sanitation (ie toilet). Few of us really think much when we flush a toilet, but if you are without electricity, even if you have a well, you likely won't have a means to get the water from your well to your toilet! Having a cup of coffee or tea becomes impossible also since most coffee pots & tea pots are electric these days. So too is making a meal a far more difficult task, if you have an electric stove! The microwave is out of the question also! Even some of our modern "wood stoves" are electric or electricity dependent. So, what does your family have that could be utilized in such power outage times? Do you really know? I would recommend testing your household's needs prior to an emergency power outage. That way you can determine where your family's weaknesses are & you will have time to modify your supplies & equipment to accommodate for short-term power outages. One suggestion is to take one full 24 hour period and NOT use electricity at all! No accessing anything that uses electricity. This includes the following:

the frigerator,

the freezer,

the air conditioner,

the furnace

the water softener

the cell phones

the internet

the play stations

the television

the washer & drier

the dish washer

the alarm clock you use to get up in the mornings....

What could you cook for your family?

Would you get to work on time?


While many of us in South Dakota would do fine if we were without power for a day or a few hours. We should take the time to evaluate our food security, if the power was out for a week or several weeks. This can happen, even in South Dakota & has. Consider the tornado that ripped through Flandreau a few years ago and the number of people, in the heat of summer who were without power.

While some families embraced their extended families and neighbors & helped those without power. Some vulnerable families including single moms with small children were without power & help. Those families lost all their food in their refrigerator and freezers, even though within blocks of them people they knew & worked with had power. If this a vulnerable family on public assistance, that food lost could not be replaced for another month. A month with no help from neighbors, family or the government.

It could easily happen to anyone, but the most vulnerable people in our society (even in South Dakota) often are the victims most devastated by such events. Without safety nets in place and without food security, the children, elderly & disabled feel the impact the greatest.

I saw this same pattern of impact in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Single parent households, elderly & disabled were more vulnerable due often to issues of transportation to and from food distribution sites, which are often placed in areas of convenience for able bodied organizers, not disabled or mobile limited victims. Canvasing for the vulnerable & needy rarely takes place by emergency personnel who focus initial search and rescue on people they consider "at risk" or the bodies of those lost. As a result the semi-mobile "able bodied" vulnerable like single parents with small children, who can't just walk about with small children in tow, through disaster areas -- find themselves trapped in the "safety" of their home but barred from going after needed food distribution.

The Flandreau case illustrates even short term disasters have the same affect on the vulnerable single family structure and on "able bodied" elderly if they do not have family or neighbors who are willing to step up and be prepared to care for their needs as well.

Outages are our biggest risk for food security in the upper high plains, but its not just winter weather that brings it. Its also not merely a few hours that it can occur. While summer months means easier cooking solutions, if you have the financial means to replace your entire frozen and refrigerated food stocks.

What are some solutions for ourselves & our community's vulnerable families?

Let us consider how we could address winter outage and the food security of no power to keep our refrigerated foods cold. This is perhaps the simplest solution. We can merely take totes and coolers of food and place them on our secure porches or balconies (out of reach of neighborhood dogs & vermin).

Those items you need to refrigerate, and not freeze, should be placed in the cooler. By placing them in the cooler, the insulation factor of the cooler keeps the item from freezing. Additionally if its too cold to leave it outside even within the cooler, simply take some icicles or snow & pack it around the items in the cooler & bring the cooler inside the house. The snow will act like packed Ice in a summer cooler. Keeping the foods cold but not frozen.

For those items you want frozen can stay outside in secure containers and be kept there until the power is back on. Do however, check on them daily to make sure hungry critters aren't getting to them. Remember crows and other birds such as blue jays, magpies & ravens are hunting for food also, so its not just dogs and other ground dwellers you have to contend with. (wind chimes work to keep birds away however).


If we want to claim to be a civil society, we must continue to remember to care for the vulnerable amongst us. While its been quite popular for the last few decades to villianize the poor and vulnerable, its not a civil society that feeds its wealthy at the cost of its poor & vulnerable.

When disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes happen, we see the true nature of human kind.

Let us remember and plan our best to be one of those who will be favored in the Creator's eyes for caring for the vulnerable of the Creator's creation. We find in numerous faith teachings reminders of the importance of caring for the poor and vulnerable. Some of these include the following:

Bible: Matthew 25: 40-46 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

In the Quran: "What will explain to you the path that is steep? It is the freeing of a (slave) from bondage, or the giving of food in a day of famine to an orphan relative or to a needy (stranger) in distress, and to be of those who believe, enjoin patience (in adversity) and encourage deeds of kindness and compassion." Quran, 90:12-17

In Buddhism:

Geshe Dadul Namgyal, a Tibetan Buddhist monk who as served as an English language translator for His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, spoke of compassion as a state of "harmlessness".

We also find in Buddhism the following saying,

"The Great Compassionate heart is the essence of Buddhahood" Ghandavyuha Sutra

In Hinduism:

"When a person responds to the joys and sorrows of others as if they were his own, he has attained the highest state of spiritual union." Bhagavad Gita 6.2

In Judaism:

"The world stands on three things: Upon the Law, upon Worship, and upon showing kindness." Mishnah, Abot 1.2

All these faiths share a common thread of the importance of having compassion for the vulnerable & the injured, weak or needy. It is this common thread of humanity that weaves the diverse communities of faith together. None of the teachings limit who is to be helped. It should therefore not be our practice to help only our family members or only the well-to-do or those who can "get to help".

We should prepare ourselves and prepare our community so it can stand up and be Good Neighbor to its needest during times of crisis.

This can easily be done, even by individuals. If we utilize a basic system of helping from the core area we are in outward to others.

1) Start by making sure you as an individual are basically safe in your home.

2) Make sure the vulnerable in your household are secure.

3) Make sure the vulnerable next door to you on all sides are safe & secure.

4) Make sure the vulnerable next door to your next door neighbor is secure.


If you have time to plan and prepare for possible risks, such as tornadoes & outages. Consider planning out this wave of securing your neighbors as well.

If each able bodied adult works to secure not only themselves but also their neighbors & their neighbors neighbor.... the entire town will be covered in a very short time by a mass team of individuals paying it forward.

In show moving about in this manner, the neighborhood becomes stronger as well and a side affect can be more "neighborly" to one another. (which these days seems to be a dying art needs major CPR!)

============================================================================= As I was writing the power went out! LOL ============================================================================= So I write this portion now that the power is back on. (I just have to smile at the irony!)

When disasters big or small happen, we have to have in place a plan of action -- so that (1) we as individuals can survive the disruption, (2) so our families can survive the disruption safely & (3) our communities can survive the disruption safely.

Far too often average Americans "ASSUME" the government will take care of them. We fail to recognize that at moments like these, the organism known as "government" is trying to survive itself. It must work to regain its strength & its ability to be mobile.

For this reason, we must consider the advice of F.E.M.A., when it recommends that individuals & families have stored water & food to last for a few days.

We all know how slow the government is in processing paperwork.... so why in the world do we expect that same beast to move quickly any other time? Let alone at a time of total or even partial disruption?

I believe therefore it is time we embrace the old civics lessons of by-gone times & become pro-active citizenry and work to help our communities during good times & in times of stress & disaster.

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