National Geographic Channel’s Doomsday Preppers on Emergency Food
Patrick J. Kiger from NatGeo guest-blogs today:
Americans like to eat. The average adult male consumes 2,500 calories a day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and we’re accustomed to an abundant supply of food no matter what the season. But Scott Hunt, an emergency survival consultant who is one of the advisors on the National Geographic Channel reality show Doomsday Preppers, warns that in the event of a disaster that disrupts our food system, we could easily go from feast to famine. That is, unless we’re prepared.
In the TV series, Hunt—drawing upon his background an engineer and farmer—and his fellow consultant David Kobler, a former U.S. Army paratrooper who served in the invasion of Iraq—evaluate the survival preparations of various families who are concerned about future cataclysms. A substantial portion of Hunt’s and Kobler’s checklist is devoted to emergency food storage and preparation, since maintaining a nutritious diet in trying circumstances is crucial to survival.
Hunt cautions that preppers often make the mistake of underestimating what their nutritional needs would be in a crisis situation, where a collapse of order and shortages of electricity and/or fuel might require them to expend a lot more muscle power. “Start cutting your own wood and using hand tools and going on patrols, and pretty soon you’re up to needing 5,000 or 6,000 calories a day,” Hunt warns. Worse yet, lack of nutritional foresight may mean a diet low in crucial nutrients such as vitamin C or protein, making a survivor weaker and vulnerable to illness. Conversely, “if your food and water are squared away, you’ll be in a much better position to deal with whatever happens.”
Hunt says that pre-prepared, packaged stockpiles of food, such as the freeze-dried entrees sold by Wise, are an excellent option for preppers, even those who aim for food self-sufficiency. In the event of a long-term disruption, having such a supply can give preppers added time to get their gardens and other food sources organized, and can serve as a fallback in case of a drought or other weather disaster.
Hunt recommends having a secure, temperature-controlled storage space for food—a room in a cool cellar is ideal—since even prepackaged food lasts longer when not subjected to heat. Space is a big consideration. Hunt estimates that a year’s worth of food for a person—enough to supply 2,200 calories a day—can weigh as much as 700 pounds, depending upon the type of food chosen. Dehydrated foods provide an advantage, because they may only require a seventh of the space of fully constituted foods; a year’s supply, for example, might take up two or three feet in the bottom of a closet.
Hunt also recommends selecting foods for your emergency supply that as much as possible resemble your normal diet. If you’re accustomed to eating a lot of meat, as most Americans are, suddenly switching to beans and rice is going to add to your stress, and eat away at your morale. Hunt warns that people who are forced to eat the same foods continually can experience a phenomenon called appetite fatigue, in which they eventually will prefer hunger to eating another bite of a food that they’ve grown tired of.
Having a kitchen that is equipped to keep functioning in emergencies is also vital, Hunt says. A wood stove is probably the best option, because it runs on a fuel that’s renewable if you live in an area with trees. Cooking with a wood stove may require some adjustments, since the stove-top may not become as hot as a gas or electric range, which makes cooking with a skillet more difficult. On the plus side, the oven inside the stove can be used in a fashion similar to a charcoal grill to cook vegetables and meat.