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Food Security - Household and Community Emergency Food Storage

What is Food Security?

“…when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

FAO Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nations

The United Kingdom holds no strategic food reserves and overall reserves run to just a few days1.

Responsibility falls on farmers and supermarkets:

“Levels of self-sufficiency in fruit and vegetables have fallen the most, and farmers should seek to extend the seasonal production of fresh fruit and vegetables ... We want to see more supermarkets shorten their supply chains.”

UK Food Security - food self sufficiency | source http://www.economicvoice.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/UK-Food-self-sufficiency.png

House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Food security; Second Report of Session 2014–15


What happens to Food Supplies in a Major Incident?

Supermarkets rarely keep more than 48 hours of foods stocks. Resupply may be delayed for several days or more which is why panic buying typically sets in ahead of anticipated events; i.e.  recently  Shoppers in DC panic buy ahead of worst storm in decades or UK Panic buying – Market Crash Fears, panic buyers strip shelves of bottled water as 'potentially deadly' bug hits hundreds of thousands of people.

Shelves clear out within hours resulting in shortages.

Households typically hold food stores for three days, assuming access to clean water, electricity or gas for food preparation. These, however, are likely to fail during a major incident or disaster.  For more information please see Household Storage of Emergency & Survival Food.

panic buying - empty supermarket shelves | source http://i3.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article6212126.ece/ALTERNATES/s615b/water2.png 

Why Community Emergency Food Storage?

The short answer is: efficient capacity management, increased community resilience and community preparedness.

Space for emergency food storage in households is often restricted, especially in modern sub-urban and urban environments. In addition, individuals may not possess the right knowledge or resources to make the necessary arrangements to reduce their vulnerabilities.

With the rise of community resilience groups often led by skilled community first responders and supported by local government (i.e. Local Resilience Forums), it is only a logical progression that aspects of practical food security are included in local community preparedness and resilience plans. Community preparedness is an important component of risk reduction strategies at local and national levels.

Emergency Food Storage Solutions | Food Security for Households and Communities


What type of food is best for Emergency Food Storage?

Storing a mixture of nutritious ready-to-eat and long-life dried food is best to cover both immediate demand and medium to longer-term needs.

For ease of use, we recommend a storage provision of minimum 2000 calories per adult per day and special provisions for elders and the very young.


Freeze dried meals: cost-effective, long shelf-life, lightweight

Freeze dried meals are pre-cooked meals that have been flash frozen, packaged in foil pouches or metal tins. Freeze dried foods are nutritious, extremely  light - a single meal can weight as little as 100g –and  keep their original shape, texture and taste. They can be stored at room temperature without spoiling for up to 25 years. To prepare, simply add boiling water to rehydrate the food to its original form and taste within minutes. See solutions for food preparation.   

Mountain House tins typically provide 5 to 9 portions of nutritious food and although initially costly to buy at £30 to £40, for emergency food storage this works out to just £1.40 per tin per year. From a price inflation point of view alone, these tins are an excellent food security and emergency preparedness investment.

Freeze dried meals are also available in single-portion size packed in foil pouches with a shelf-life of up to five years. As freeze dried meals have virtually no liquid content they are not affected by cold temperatures. They will rehydrate normally in sub-zero temperatures, one reason why they are used extensively in Antarctic expeditions.

MRE – meal ready to eat: quality nutrition, fast 

There are a multitude of ready-to-eat meals on the market that are suitable for emergency food storage. Army ration packs, MREs (meals ready to eat), self-heating meals etc., can all be stored for emergencies and typically have a shelf life of 2 to 3 years. Typically they require little or no food preparation and can be eaten cold or hot; i.e. via self-heating flameless ration heaters. Full range please see Food & Water.

In addition, consider building and expanding capacities by storing solutions for food preparation and water purification


What are the minimum nutritional requirements?

WHO2  baseline is 2100kcal per adult per day at 20C to maintain normal body function at rest or during light work. The recommended composition is macronutrients min 12% protein and 17% fat plus adequate micronutrients (vitamins, minerals). The ratio is variable, however, especially for young children set at min 12% protein, 30-40% fat. In addition the WHO publishes an age graded table which we reproduce here in a simplified form for ease of use: 

age groupmale kcal requirementsfemale kcal requirement
pregnant 285 extra
lactating 500 extra
If the temperature is below 20° C, adjust energy requirements upward by 100 kcal for every 5° below 20°


- 1 “Global Food Systems and UK Food Imports: Resilience, Safety and Security”, Economic & Social Research Council, 2012
2 WHO, Food and Nutrition Needs in Emergencies  (2004)
- Global Food Security Programme
- DEFRA: UK Food Security Assessment 2009

Of interest:

- RUSI commentary; Braw, E. (2018) Scandinavia's Homeland Defence: A model for Other Countries? Scandinavia has a robust homeland defence system that is popular and works. Government agencies plan for food provision in emergencies where grocery deliveries won't reach shops for several days. 


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