Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Lesson on Food Storage from the DEM

I had the opportunity to speak to the director of our county’s DEM (Department of Emergency Management) office the other day. What I learned from her made a lot of sense.

The Director said they used to store a cache of MREs which would be used to feed their staff during a disaster when everyone is in the office working around the clock. The problem with MREs, however, were many. They were expensive, they had expiration dates which meant that when they expired, all of this investment would need to be dumped in the garbage, and, most importantly, the novelty of eating something out of a brown cardboard-wrapped foil pouch wore off rather quickly.

This is what they do now: they purchase all of their food cache from Costco and the local grocery store. The cost is reasonable, especially if you purchase canned, boxed and foil-pouched foods on sale. The products do have expiration dates but with “regular” food, this is easy to get around—simply work the stores into your regular food supply and restock as you go along, or, you can, as the DEM does, donate the near expiring food to the local food bank. Finally, when you purchase and package “regular” food, you are able to buy food that is familiar and often a welcome respite when it comes to disaster work—everything else may be “going to Hell in a handbasket” but on your five minute break you get to have a can of Campbell’s soup or handful of Oreos—something familiar and soul-warming.

The DEM does still have MREs, they are useful if you have to go mobile, but their overall food storage plan now meets their needs in the most efficient, effective way possible.

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