"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
May 06, 2015
Food Storage for Medical Emergencies
by Carolyn Nicolaysen

Last month we talked about Ebola or a pandemic that may be lurking. Since then we have two confirmed cases of Ebola in the United States.

We have learned that in the first case a man traveled from Liberia and had no symptoms. He visited with family; still no symptoms. In a few days he began showing symptoms and not until a second visit to the hospital was he admitted.

In the mean time the children in the home where he visited went to school and the family did all the normal things families do — grocery shopping, sports, church, and so on. The family is now quarantined for 21 days, the amount of time it takes to ensure a person is not infected.

This is not what a pandemic looks like, but it could still lead to you needing to quarantine your family for 21 days if someone at school or work exposes a family member.

What can we expect if a true pandemic arrives? Look to 1918…

  • “All across the state, church meetings, private parties and all public gatherings were cancelled or limited. Spitting was fined. Facemasks were mandatory. 

  • “Ogden City [Utah] was placed under quarantine. No one could come in or out without a note from a doctor. In Panguitch (near Brice Canyon), Margaret Callister, a young child at the time, remembered, ‘Dead people were all around us, three or four to a family.’ To keep her and her siblings healthy, Margaret's mother put sacks of herbs around their necks.” 

  • “By the first week of November, more than 115,000 cases and hundreds of deaths across the state [California] had been reported. Makeshift hospitals were hastily opened to deal with the surge of patients that were overwhelming the health care system. In San Francisco and elsewhere, mandates compelled the wearing of masks in public on penalty of fines or even imprisonment. The San Francisco Chronicle reported, ‘The man who wears no mask will likely become isolated, suspected, and regarded as a slacker. Like a man of means without a Liberty Loan button, he'll be shy of friends.’ 

  • “Though the pandemic began to subside in November, residents still felt its effects through the holiday season. Citizens were still asked to do their Christmas shopping by phone rather than to travel to stores in person. Shopkeepers were even asked not to hold holiday sales, as they might draw crowds.” 

To better understand how to prepare our families, let’s have a look at what professional planners are implementing. BYU Idaho, in fact, has become a leader in pandemic planning among universities. One of their preparations includes an emergency “self imposed reverse quarantine” (SIRQ) for students. This would entail students remaining in their homes or apartments without venturing outside for days or weeks, depending on the severity of the flu.

One of BYUI’s recommendations to students, is to have a supply of food on hand in case of such an emergency. Should a SIRQ be required, there may be as little as a few hours or days to prepare. Once word is out in the community, whether in Rexburg or your hometown, grocery stores and pharmacies will quickly empty of needed supplies. If you live in a city such as New York or Los Angeles, your warning may be sudden indeed.  

So this week we focus on preparing for quarantine.

Once confined to our homes the convenience of running to the grocery store will not be a possibility for however long our quarantine lasts. Food storage will become more important than ever.

Which foods do you need to have on hand to keep our healthy family members healthy and to help those who are ill to recover?  

Now we pause momentarily to address our skeptics. You are thinking “This is way over the top.” So be warned — empty grocery store shelves are not a scare tactic or exaggeration. Shelves have been empty before, due to natural disasters, economic downturns, and truckers strikes.

When everyone is in danger, employees will not show up to risk their lives to bag groceries, stock shelves, or drive the truck that delivers the foodstuffs, just for a wage. History indicates that such events happen time to time. It is not a matter of if but of when.

Back to our subject. To care for family members who are ill, there are several specific foods which should be stored. A pandemic flu is much more serious than a seasonal flu, however, many of the treatments for those suffering and recovering remain the same. 

When children are young and suffer from a seasonal flu we are advised to feed them the BRAT diet as they recover. These foods will also help adults and all who are suffering from a pandemic flu. 

B= Banana. Now we really can't store these effectively except to freeze a few. Bananas freeze best when left in the skin and stored in a freezer bag. They are great blended into a drink or added to banana bread, but after being frozen they are not great for eating. As an option, you could store freeze-dried bananas, and reconstitute them like the dried strawberries in your morning cereal. Banana baby food is also an option.

R=Rice. This one is easy to store and should already be a part of your 3-month supply as well as long-term storage. Rice is easy to digest for anyone recovering from a stomach or intestinal illness and also for anyone who has had surgery and is on a limited diet.

White rice is what you want. Long grain, short grain, it doesn't matter, but it needs to be white because brown rice goes rancid fast. Rice can be purchased from the Church canneries, grocery stores, restaurant suppliers and membership stores. It will store for 20-plus years if kept in a cool, dark and dry environment. Pests and rodents love rice so be sure to store it in rodent-proof containers. 

Another use for rice: When suffering from the flu we always experience aches.  A warm rice pack placed on an area that aches is wonderful. Make a few now or store a little extra rice so you have some to make rice packs when they are needed. (Directions for making packs are available in the August Totally Ready Newsletter or in the archives at http://blog.TotallyReady.com)

A=Applesauce. This is one of those foods that should be on every shelf.  It is easy to digest, perfect for infants and can be used in many recipes, making it easy to rotate. China has planted many apple orchards, making our local apples less profitable to grow, and making it more difficult to find apples for canning. Growers in the US have been removing orchards because of the flood of cheaper apples from China.

During a pandemic, this source of imported apples would be interrupted. If you are considering planting fruit trees you should consider apples. Apples store well in a cool environment. Our ancestors stored and ate apples all winter without refrigeration. They are also very easy to can and have on hand for a pandemic. 

T=Toast. No, you can't store large quantities of bread, but you can store flour and wheat to make your own. If you still have not learned the art of bread-making, invite a friend or family member to teach you. There is nothing better than the smell of baking bread. That alone would cure me. 

A few more foods are essential: 

Chicken soup. Yes, really. Studies have shown that there are real health benefits from eating chicken soup. It helps relieve chest and nasal congestion and may inhibit inflammation that leads to the sore throat and phlegm we hate. It is also nutritious and fights dehydration — and of course, chicken soup tastes good and is easy to digest. 

When making your own do not skim off the fat, it has important illness-fighting components.

Herbal teas. They are easy to digest, feel good on a sore throat, and help to keep a patient hydrated. Dehydration is the largest cause of death from the flu. Herbal teas like chamomile are soothing to the stomach, calm the nerves, and help relieve cold symptoms. Just ask your grandma if you don’t believe me. Don’t overlook Fennel and Raspberry herbal teas for their benefits as well.

Flavored gelatins. After surgery or serious illness, the first thing you may be given to eat is a gelatin. They are easy to swallow, ease the craving for something sweet, are easily digested, kids love them, they help prevent dehydration, gelatin takes very little time to prepare and during a quarantine can be a great dessert. All of these are important.

If you aren’t big on all the chemicals on flavored gelatins, it’s easy to make your own with Knox gelatin and fruit juice. Grape juice and apple juice make especially good gelatins. Steer away from pineapple juice because it doesn’t set up right.

Otter Pops. As I mentioned before, dehydration for those battling the flu, is a huge problem. Otter Pops provide liquid in a form the kids will love. Recently I had a friend tell me her husband always buys Otter Pops for their food storage; he's an Otter Pop junkie. These are easy to place in the freezer and are ready in a few hours, and again makes a great treat when you need comfort food during a quarantine. 

Juices. Juices are another way to maintain hydration. They can be used as drinks or frozen into popsicles. Juices other than citrus are the best to store for use during an illness because they are less acidic.  Pedialite. Great to give to anyone who you suspect is dehydrated.

Ginger Ale and Lemon-Lime sodas. These are great to settle the stomach, but do not rely on them as hydration sources. Sodas will dehydrate the body. But, if you can find Ginger Ale made with real ginger, there are some legitimate benefits in treating nausea, settling the digestive tract, and even relieving arthritis symptoms, according to some research.

Canada Dry ginger ale has real ginger. Remember though, ginger flavoring is not enough — we are talking about real ginger as a food ingredient. Sounds like a good reason to store and use some dried ginger or ginger capsules — though clearly, fresh ginger has the most benefit. 

If you are using soft drinks, be sure to rotate them. It is not just cola drinks that will eat through a can and rot your shelving units if they are not rotated. Other sodas will do the same thing. You can certainly store them beyond the expiration date, but don’t expect to put them in the basement and forget about them for ten years. They will not be in the cans when you need them.

Food storage is an absolutely essential part of planning for a pandemic or other health emergency. Don't delay. This apple season, find some apples and start canning. Homemade applesauce can even be a thoughtful Christmas gift in an attractive jar with a personal label! But the bottom line is food storage is an essential part of being prepared in case of a quarantine.

For answers to your self reliance questions visit Carolyn’s facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/TotallyReady


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About Carolyn Nicolaysen

Carolyn Nicolaysen grew up in New Jersey and joined the Church while attending Central College in Pella, Iowa. With a degree in Home Economics, she later worked as a high school teacher, and served as an elected trustee of her local school board. Carolyn has taught personal and family preparedness to all who will listen. Having lived in areas that were threatened by winter storms, hurricanes and tornadoes, and now living in an earthquake prone area, she has developed a passion for preparedness. Carolyn started her own business, TotallyReady, when she saw the need for higher quality emergency information that could truly sustain families in a disaster.

Carolyn is FEMA trained and is an Amateur Radio first responder. She serves as Relief Society president of her California ward.

Carolyn is the author of three ebooks, Mother Hubbard, What She's Doing Now (food storage for the 21st century), Prep Not Panic (preparing for a pandemic of medical emergency) and That Won't Happen to Me (a discussion of disaster preparations). She has also authored a glove box book, Totally Ready for the Road and writes a monthly newsletter and the Totally Ready facebook page.

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