Sunday, May 4, 2014

Preparing for food shortages during disasters

In yesterday's Nourish entry, I reported on the possibilitty of a global food shortage by 2050 and what could be done about it.  It turns out we don't have to wait 36 years for a food shortage.  One could happen any time there's a large enough natural disaster as Bob Norton of Auburn University described on April 3, 2014 in Food Defense Begins with Food Intelligence.
Consumers have largely lost an understanding of the traditional sources of food (such as farms, fields, ranches and orchards) and now tend to think of food’s origin as the grocery store or the fast-food restaurant. America has moved so far away from its agrarian past that most people cannot produce for themselves even the most simply grown foods.

Consumers need to understand the complexities of modern food production so they can prepare for disruptions caused by natural disasters or terrorist attacks. This can be accomplished in part by better understanding how food corporations plan for contingencies and then applying those lessons at the household level.

The average large city in the United States contains about three days’ supply of food, smaller communities often even less. Should the supply chain be disrupted, a readily available alternative supply might not exist. Some people think the government would step in to provide necessities in an emergency, but countless cases—including the disasters caused by tornadoes in the Oklahoma City region last year—have proven that the government is only marginally effective in providing even short-term solutions. Like companies, individuals should always consider food disruption as a distinct possibility when an emergency looms.

After the Oklahoma tornadoes and Hurricane Sandy, some people actually did go hungry, some for several days, because no one could get through the debris to offer assistance. This is one reason the Department of Homeland Security recommends that all households store at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food.
Emergencies cause incredible amounts of stress, which may naturally depress appetites. It is important to choose food products that will provide sufficient nutrition while proving palatable enough to encourage consumption. Some food products require water in their preparation, and water is a key ingredient for human survival. Food and water supplies have to be kept close by, so that in an emergency both are readily available.  Prepare for a longer duration emergency and you will have sufficient capacity to help other family and friends, should an emergency be of shorter duration.  In this way neighbors can look out for neighbors when roads are impassible and government assistance will be delayed.
Communities made up of households that understand and practice food security are communities less likely to experience widespread food emergencies in the face of natural- or terrorist-related disasters. Food-secure households make food-secure neighborhoods, which in turn make food-secure communities, which make food-secure regions and a food-secure nation.
Read the rest of the article at the link to get advice for communities and companies.

Fortunately, this year's hurricane season will be less likely to produce a Sandy or Katrina, as North Carolina State University reported Expect Relatively Quiet Hurricane Season, NC State Researchers Say on April 16, 2014.
The 2014 Atlantic hurricane season will be less active than in the past 20 years, but still in line with overall averages from 1950 to the present, according to researchers at North Carolina State University.

Eight to 11 named storms should form in 2014 in the Atlantic basin, which includes the entire Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, according to Dr. Lian Xie, professor of marine, earth and atmospheric sciences (MEAS), and collaborators Dr. Montserrat Fuentes, professor of statistics, Marcela Alfaro-Cordoba, graduate research assistant in statistics and Bin Liu, research assistant professor in MEAS. This number is slightly lower than – but within the margin of error for – the (1950-2013) 63-year average of 10.8 named storms.

Of those named storms, four to six may grow strong enough to become hurricanes, and one to three may become major hurricanes.
That's good news.  Just the same, be prepared.

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