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TrueNorth PSA: Managing Your Food Supply during a Natural Disaster

posted by TrueNorth Companies on Monday, August 17, 2020

Food is an essential element for survival and a necessary item in an emergency supply kit. Following a disaster, there may be power outages that could last for several days. Stock canned foods, dry mixes, bottled water and other staples that do not require refrigeration, cooking or special preparation. Be sure to include a manual can opener and eating utensils.

When putting together your emergency food supplies:

  • Store at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food.
  • Choose foods your family will eat and remember any special dietary needs.
  • Avoid foods that will make you thirsty.
  • Choose salt-free crackers, whole grain cereals and canned goods with high liquid content.

Suggested emergency food supplies:

The following items are recommended as emergency food supplies. You may already have many of these on hand. 

  • Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables and a can opener
  • Protein or fruit bars
  • Dry cereal or granola
  • Peanut butter
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Crackers
  • Canned juices
  • Nonperishable pasteurized milk
  • Vitamins and other dietary supplements
  • Food for infants


Alternative cooking sources in times of emergency include candle warmers, chafing dishes, fondue pots and fireplaces. Charcoal grills and camp stoves are for outdoor use only. Commercially canned food may be eaten out of the can without warming.

To heat food in a can: 

  • Remove the label.
  • Thoroughly wash and disinfect the can. (Use a diluted solution of one part bleach to ten parts water.)
  • Open the can before heating.


Flood, fire, natural disaster or the loss of power from high winds, snow or ice could jeopardize the safety of your food. Knowing what to do before and after an emergency can help you reduce your risk of illness and minimize the amount of food that may be lost due to spoilage. 

Power outages can occur at any time of the year and it may take a few hours to several days for electricity to be restored to residential areas. Without electricity or a cold source, food stored in refrigerators and freezers can become unsafe. Bacteria in food grow rapidly at temperatures between 40° F and 140° F, and if these foods are consumed, people can become very sick.


  • Keep food in covered containers. 
  • Keep cooking and eating utensils clean.
  • Keep garbage in closed containers and dispose outside in garbage cans. 
  • Keep your hands clean by washing them frequently with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected.
  • Discard any food that has come into contact with contaminated floodwater.
  • Discard any food that has been at room temperature for two hours or more.
  • Discard any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
  • Use ready-to-feed formula, if possible, for formula-fed infants. If using ready-to-feed formula is not possible, it is best to use bottled water to prepare powdered or concentrated formula. If bottled water is not available, use boiled water. Use treated water to prepare formula only if you do not have bottled or boiled water. Breastfed infants should continue breastfeeding.


  • 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.

Thawed food can usually be eaten if it is still “refrigerator cold.”  It can be refrozen if it still contains ice crystals. To be safe, remember: “when in doubt, throw it out.”


Be prepared:

  • Have a refrigerator thermometer.
  • Know where to find ice and dry ice, if possible.
  • Keep a few days’ worth of ready-to-eat foods on hand that do not require cooking or cooling.

When the power goes out:

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
  • The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if left unopened.
  • Refrigerators should be kept at 40° F or below for proper food storage.

Once the power is restored:

  • Check the temperature inside the refrigerator and freezer.
  • If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, check the temperature when the power comes back on. If the freezer thermometer reads 40° F or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen. If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. You can't rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40° F or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook.
  • Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power was out for no more than four hours. Keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible.
  • Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40° F for two hours or more.


  • Under normal circumstances you should not keep dry ice in your freezer because it will cause the unit to become too cold and your freezer may shut off. However, if you lose power for an extended period of time, dry ice is the best way to keep things cold.
  • Twenty-five pounds of dry ice will keep a 10-cubic-foot freezer below freezing for three to four days.
  • If you use dry ice to keep your food cold, make sure it does not come in direct contact with the food.
  • Use care when handling dry ice. Wear dry, heavy gloves to avoid injury.

In addition to insuring your home, TrueNorth is committed to helping you and your loved ones stay safe when disaster strikes. For claims guidance and carrier resources, please visit

This publication has been prepared by TrueNorth Companies, L.C. and is intended for informational purposes only. Transmission of this publication is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, a client relationship with TrueNorth Companies, L.C. This publication does not constitute any type of representation or warranty, and does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as, legal advice. This publication is not a contract and does not amend, modify or change any insurance policy you may have with an insurance carrier.© 2020 TrueNorth Companies, L.C. All rights reserved.

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TrueNorth is the largest insurance and financial services firm of its kind based in Eastern Iowa. Today, our dedicated staff consists of over 350 colleagues and is organized so each becomes a specialist in their respective practice areas. This collaboration offers our clients a coordinated approach to risk management, insurance services and financial strategies. 

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