Callaway County Health Department officials stressed the importance of food preparedness in case of an emergency yesterday during a demonstration at the Callaway County Public Library. The event was in conjunction with Severe Weather Week.
Mylene Dunn said an emergency doesn't need to be as devastating as the Katrina hurricane or Joplin tornado for a family to be ready. She said storing food - especially foods that can last up to 30 years - can be cost-effective when financial emergencies come about. Dunn used the examples of grocery money going to blown-out tires or a child's field trip.
In cases of a natural disaster, though, Dunn added that her goal is for people to be independent if assistance is not available.
"That help might not always be there," Dunn said.
Dunn and Pam Phelps, Callaway County Medical Reserve Corps director, suggested various tips to a group gathered at the library.
Food should be stored in a plastic container, Dunn said, instead a glass one, and should be sealed with wax - paraffin, bees, stripped unscented candles, etc. By sealing the food with wax, it can last between 25 and 30 years.
Bay leaves are a natural deterrent of insects, she added, and should be added to containers. People should store food they enjoy eating, including what Dunn called "comfort foods" such as brownies and dried fruit.
Dunn and Phelps have developed three cookbooks, many of which - if not all - include dehydrated food products. Dunn said dehydrators can be found at Walmart and Westlake Ace Hardware as well as Bass Pro Shops. Her favorite brand is Excalibur, but she advised people to purchase a dehydrator that includes temperature control. Fruits should be cooked around 115 degrees in order to maintain nutrients. Meat, she added, needs to be cooked in an oven at a minimum temperature of 160 degrees, and then can be dehydrated.
An easy water source is a home's water heater. Once the line is turned off, Phelps said, most water heaters can supply up to 40 gallons of water that can be used for cooking and drinking.
Phelps said the programs she and Dunn run do not have a "doomsday" feel. The food examples they gave would help a family sustain meals for a few days.
"We do not participate in that," Phelps said. "We just want to make sure we can take care of ourselves and our families for up to 72 hours."
Dunn and Phelps handed out a food schedule to attendees. Each week the food should cost around $10. For the full list, go to fultonsun.com.
The Callaway County Health Department will host another food storage seminar on dehydrating foods 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, at 4950 County Road 304 in Fulton. Another opportunity to learn more comes on July 10 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Auxvasse Lion's Club, when the department will conduct a disaster exercise as a part of the Disaster Awareness Fair.