Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten

November 11, 2005 | 38 comments
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Clearly, were there to be a famine, a one year food supply in the basement would look really good. What may be slightly less obvious is that the presence of food storage, even if nobody ever uses any of it for an emergency, can stop a famine from ever actually happening.

To see this, let’s take a very brief detour into the research on famines and hunger. It turns out that some locations can suddenly have widespread starvation even when the actual amount of food in the country has not changed much at all. There are a few reasons why this can happen, but the most interesting story is basically the same as what causes stock market bubbles, expectations. Suppose you hear a rumor that the crop is going to be very poor this year, and so there may well be a food shortage. Well, the smart thing to do would be to go stock up some food. You, and all of your smart neighbors (in economics, everybody is smart!), all go down and grab the food off the shelves. As Julie noted, we saw this behavior with the recent hurricanes. This surge in food demand raises the price of food, possibly so much, in a poor country, that poor people start starving. Remember that this happens even if the food supply turns out to be fine; because the food that poor people would be eating is now being hoarded by the middle class who, incidentally, now feel justified in having hoarded food because there clearly is a famine!

So now let’s back up a few years and imagine that those middle class denizens had listened to the prophets and slowly, carefully, built up a sizable food storage. When the (false) rumors of a poor crop come out, they are gleeful that they will finally get to use all that food they stored! This means that they do not rush out to buy food, thus there is no mass hoarding and consequently the supply of food turns out to be perfectly adequate to feed the poor. “I guess I didn’t need my food storage after all,” sighs the food storer, blissfully unaware that the unused food helped save the life of some poor person in their country. The story, by the way, needn’t be about a crop failure; all you need is the expectation that food will be in short supply due to transportation malfunctions, weather, disaster, or whatever.

This story could play out several times over a lifetime, until at the end of their life, the faithful food storers wonder why they even even bothered to store food when no disaster ever struck. Perhaps they chalk it up to a test of faith, never realizing that their obedience averted the disaster in the first place.

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38 Responses to Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten

  1. FullnessOfTimes.com on November 11, 2005 at 1:08 pm

    The biggest problem I have with the term “Food Storage” is the word “storage”. That leads to an awful misconception. Having worked before in places that deal with food (not fast food), I learned the valuable lesson of a thing called “rotation”. Food needs to be used, rotated and replenished.

    If you just “store” your food supply, it will rot like what happened with a lot supplies of those who “stored” food back in the 1970’s. Much of that is still there and isn’t any good any more.

    When you purchase food for your supply, you should date it first thing. Put the date you bought it on the package somewhere. This will allow you to know how long something has been there and make sure you are using the older items before the brand new items. When you open something, put another date on it. This allows you to know how long it takes to use it up. Both of these are useful in your planning of how much you need of any one item.

    Learn to use the foods in your supply. When a crisis comes (and it will), it will do no good to have no idea how to use your dried beans, wheat, etc.

    By using your food you will eat healtier, have a proper understanding of what to do with your supply, get practice at using it, and be rotating it as you replace the items you use.

    Don’t get caught up on the word “storage”. Use your food supply, rotate it, and replace what has been used.

    One other comment I should make… if you look back at the council of the early prophets, we were always to have 7 years of food supply. As the saints did not heed the council, the number of years dropped to 5 and 3 and then 1, until at one point recently the Brethren were encouring the slothful Saints to get at least a 1 to 3 month supply on hand.

  2. Jonathan Green on November 11, 2005 at 2:38 pm

    Thanks, Frank. This makes a lot of sense, and for a long time I’ve looked for approaches to food storage that didn’t sound like a mixture of Mad Max and Red Dawn.

  3. Jared on November 11, 2005 at 2:47 pm

    Even if 100% of members had their storage, would that be a significant enough proportion of the population to head off famine in the rumor scenario? In Utah, maybe, but elsewhere?

  4. manaen on November 11, 2005 at 2:49 pm

    An interesting take on LDS economics. “Gospel Standards,” a collection Heber J. Grant’s teachings, has a section on “Mormon Economics.”

    There is the view also that if I have a year’s supply of food and my neighbor is hungry, I don’t have a year’s supply of food. Would we Iet the poor starve in the midst of our sufficiency? Would this extend the benefits of food storage (with rotation) that you lay out?

    As a financial wonk, I’ve been interested in a little-discussed detail of Joseph’s program for the Egyptian famine: he taxed 20% of production for storage, but then sold it back to the people — making Pharoah their savior and wealthier in the same action. No wonder Pharoah liked this guy!

  5. Bookslinger on November 11, 2005 at 3:01 pm

    (I’m going to start using my new Blogger.com handle (Bookslinger) instead of GreenEggz. My old Blogger name was “Books of Mormon in Indy” which is too long. That, and I finally realized that the longer handle wasn’t quite appropriate for commenting on others’ blogs. And I hope ya’ll don’t mind if I keep using an alias for a while.)

    For those who don’t want to buy expensive flour grinders, the less-expensive “grain cracker/crusher” ($20-$30 range) can be used to crack whole wheat that can then be boiled into cream-of-wheat or porridge. Cracked wheat can also be added to bread dough for more body and flavor.

    Beans and brown rice don’t have as long shelf storage as whole wheat berries and white rice, but… There are lots of kinds of beans for variety, many flavors, quick cooking, long cooking. Plus brown rice is much more nutricious than white rice. White rice is basically empty calories and carbs, with very few vitamins.

    Spices and seasonings. Can’t say enough. With the right seasoning, you can make anything taste good, learned that on the mission. For the best variety, check out the ethnic grocery stores. Mexican grocery stores have about 16 different varieties of chilies. “Sazon Goya” seasoning with saffron, and the Piquin chilies are my favorite. Middle Eastern (Indian, Pakistani, Arabic, etc) and East Asian groceries also have great spices. Garam Masala is great for seasoning chicken.

    I like the 20 pound bags of whole wheat flour (usually Durum) at the Middle Eastern markets, and the 20 to 50 pound bags of rice at the Middle Eastern and Asian markets.

    Jasmine rice and Basmati rice, which are aromatic white rices, are a nice variety from the regular long-grained white.

    “Big Lots” and dollar-type stores are also getting into inexpensive storable grain foods.

    After buying dried beans and peas I freeze them for 4 days to kill any weevils and their eggs. Cow Peas are notorious for having weevils.

    A pressure cooker is great for when you forget to pre-soak your beans.

  6. Bookslinger on November 11, 2005 at 3:33 pm

    Jared, #3. “Even if 100% of members had their storage, would that be a significant enough proportion of the population to head off famine in the rumor scenario? In Utah, maybe, but elsewhere?”

    In the Indianapolis North Stake, we have about 2000 (guessing) active members (adult+children). If each person had 365 day’s worth of food, that would be 730,000 person-days of food. There are approximately 600,000 total citizens in the stake boundaries. We could theoretically feed everyone for about 4 meals.

    So it’s probably not enough to head off hoarding.

    But the Homeland Security Department is now pushing 72-hour Emergency Kits, _and_ a small food supply, so maybe things will improve.

    Maybe food supply/storage would make a good Christmas gift? Seal the box and label it: “Eat in 2007, or in emergency, whichever comes first.”

    Helpful hint: Alternative to powdered skim milk: Canned “NIDO” from Nestle, full cream milk powder. Keeps for 2 years from date of manufacture. Available in ethnic grocery stores.

  7. Adam S. on November 11, 2005 at 3:55 pm

    Relax Fullness. A doctrine unheeded is worthless. 7 years?

  8. Greg Call on November 11, 2005 at 4:16 pm

    I don’t have much to say about food storage (I barely keep our fridge supplied with bottled water), but any post leading with a Dylan lyric is a good post.

  9. Frank McIntyre on November 11, 2005 at 4:18 pm

    Thanks for the comments.

    Jared, I think you are right that this only works when lots of people are living the law. Of course, as manaen notes, one person’s supply can serve to insure more than one family if the expected time frame is short.

  10. Frank McIntyre on November 11, 2005 at 4:21 pm

    BookSlinger, thanks for the grinder info. We actually are in the market for one. I saw a really cool one for $300, but I’m expecting we’ll end up with something in the $100 range.

    Greg, glad to oblige. You win the prize!

  11. TMD on November 11, 2005 at 8:32 pm

    Interesting comment, Frank, but other research suggests that famines (since, say, the 17th century) are always the result of politics, and the best way of ending famine is having a government responsive to the peoples’ needs. That is, the state has the ability to find food and distribute it: the only question is, will it expend the resources necessary to do so?…the answer is, if they must to remain in power. There’s an excellent study of famine codes that shows that when the population is able to make their governors put the code in force, they are actually acted upon and boom! no famine, while when no code is in place or when one has merely been granted by the state, they aren’t acted upon. Democracy, it seems, is the best defense against famine. It’s only in the absence of a state, or a state responsive to its peoples needs (as defined above) that a famine might be caused by rumor, and only in that case might private food storage would be apt to prevent one.

  12. Costanza on November 11, 2005 at 8:40 pm

    Ya, which Dylan song is that anyway? “A Hard Rains A-gonna Fall”?

  13. Scott on November 12, 2005 at 12:46 am

    Yup, it’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.” Previous McIntyre posts have led with lyrics from “My Back Pages” and, more recently, “Idiot Wind.”

    Scott

  14. Frank McIntyre on November 12, 2005 at 9:59 am

    TMD,

    I agree that the big famines in recent times have all had some element of obvious government failure or maliciousness. This example only deals with one cause of famine, not all of them. A good government (like in Joseph’s Egypt) or a well functioning market can both replace the need for self-sufficiency, in the short or the long term. It is, for example, hard to imagine the United States suffering from a widespread, longterm, famine with our current level of wealth, market development and government efficiency, unless, of course, there is a disaster of some sort that causes these things to break down. The whole point of a malfunction or disaster or what have you is that you don’t have those things for some period of time.

  15. scott on November 12, 2005 at 10:52 am

    Let’s play devil’s advocate here.

    Is a run on food is caused by people with no food storage rushing to get a 2 week supply of food/water? Or is it caused by ultra-paranoid millenialists who already have a year’s supply and decide that this is a prudent time to ramp up to 2 years?

    Put differently, pick a random family from New Orleans. Let X be amount of food they had stored and Y be amount they stockpiled in week before Katrina. Are X and Y positively correlated or negatively correlated?

    I’d wager that they are positively correlated. And that encouraging stockpiling at all times as a general principle will _increase_ rather than _decrease_ the amount people will attempt to purchase in week before a disaster.

  16. Frank McIntyre on November 12, 2005 at 11:39 am

    Scott,

    I don’t know who is doing the stockpiling in a disaster, although I would guess everyone is, but it is worth noting that calls in General Conference to get one’s food supply are accompanied by noting that one should not freak out and rush the grocery store. The people in our model obey the prophet in both respects. Thus whatever the case in practice with worldly stockpilers, following the Church’s counsel will not cause this problem.

  17. manaen on November 12, 2005 at 12:50 pm

    Like with any other problem, the restored gospel offers the best solution to the problem of famine. This is not only because the Lord (frequently) blesses the faithful with prosperity but also that it is the kind of people in the government, not the government’s form, which determines the success or failure of programs to help.
    .
    Pres. John Taylor taught the difference between the form of government and the quality of people in it:
    .
    “It is altogether an infatuation to think that a change in government will mend the circumstances, or increase the resources, when the whole world is groaning under corruption. If there are twenty men who have twenty pounds of bread to divide amongst them, it matters but little whether it is divided by three, ten, or the whole, it will not increase the amount. I grant, however, that there are flagrant abuses, of which we have mentioned some, associated with all kinds of governments, and many things to be complained of justly; but they arise from the wickedness of man, and the corrupt and artificial state of society. Do away with one set of rulers, and you have only the same materials to make another of; and if ever so honestly disposed, they are surrounded with such a train of circumstances, over which the have no control, that they cannot mend them.
    .
    “There is frequently much excitement on this subject; and many people ignorant of these things, are led to suppose that their resources will be increased, and their circumstances bettered; but when the find, after much contention, struggling, and bloodshed, that it does not rain bread, cheese, and clothing; that it is only a change of men, papers, and parchment, chagrin and disappointment naturally follow. There is much that is good, and much that is bad in all governments; and I am not seeking here to portray a perfect government, but to show some of the evils associated with them, and the utter incompetency of all the plans of men to restore a perfect government; and as all their plans have failed, so they will fail, for it is the work of God, and not of man. The moral agency of man without God, has […] its full development; his weakness, wickedness, and corruption have placed the world where it is� (“Government of God,� p. 25)
    .
    Pres. Taylor then discusses the need for conversion to Christ to have success.
    .
    I was surprised to read this at the beginning of my mission, in the early ‘70s, because I’d felt that I was walking away from some social causes to participate in a pie-in-the-sky venture of getting people into a better place in the next life, but ignoring current problems. Pres. Taylor’s words opened my understanding that the solution to *any* problem: famine, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, racism, poverty, is the quality of the people in the solution and God’s guidance — the gospel not only is the best answer for your favorite cause but for all the others as well.
    .
    This understanding in one instant quashed my radicalism and made missionary work one of the most politically-active things I could do. With time, I have lost the frame of reference of causes/politics and now see this life more as the opportunity to love one another.

  18. annegb on November 12, 2005 at 2:16 pm

    You guys, store aluminum foil, paper plates, plastic utensils, and extra toothbrushes and soap for evacuees. If people come and there is a shortage of water and no power, you can wrap things in foil and cook over a fire.

    And you don’t need water to wash the dishes. And everyone will need toothbrushes and hygiene items.

    Not only food.

    I read about this years ago and it has stuck with me. I know I’ve blogged about this as well, but it bears repeating in this day and age.

  19. scott on November 12, 2005 at 4:58 pm

    Frank:

    If GAs are giving advice like, “Don’t rush out and stockpile additional food after you begin to hear credible rumors that shortages are coming,” then I agree with you (though I don’t recall having heard these comments).

    If you refer to standard general conference comments like “Now, one shouldn’t take my food storage admonishment as prophesy of an imminent disaster [laughter],” then I disagree; these comments are irrelevant to how people will behave after panic sets in.

  20. Ana on November 12, 2005 at 5:48 pm

    If you have a KitchenAid mixer you can get a grain grinder attachment. Check ebay. Some other mixers have similar attachments available. It was a good option for us to save some money and space.

  21. Steve on November 13, 2005 at 3:50 pm

    About comment #1: When I became a member about 7 years ago a friend mentioned in a class discussion about food storage “The church doesn’t really push 72 hour kits.” Now it seems that they are. In the Philippines that seems to generally be the advice, because they know that even Latter-day Saints either can’t or just will not do more than that.

  22. Frank McIntyre on November 14, 2005 at 11:15 am

    Ana,

    Do those work well?

    Scott,

    Usually they say something like what President Hinckley said in Priesthood Session: “Now what I have said should not occasion a run on the grocery store or anything of that kind. I am saying nothing that has not been said for a very long time.” Most calls for food storage are accompanied by reminders to do so in a calm manner.

    I know that, were there an emergency, the more food I had already stored, the less I would need to add right then. You seem to be correctly envisioning a type of person who stockpiles both now and in emergencies. While I agree that there are people with those preferences, I don’t think that is a good characterization of behavior for members who collect food largely because they’ve been asked to. For them, I think the more they collect now, the less they will in an emergency.

  23. Todd on November 14, 2005 at 12:27 pm

    I have always had two dilemmas about food storage…
    1) -as has been hinted at–it’s really food/clothing/fuel…. it’s really everything. If I have but food,that’s a good start, but if I don’t have medicine, cleaning supplies, fuel, clothing, water, etc… where does it end? I especially worry about the water part. Now this hasn’t stopped me from beginning, but there’s always a feeling of woeful inadequacy when I consider what I have vs what I truly should have.

    2) I’m a food snob. Almost everything I consume is fresh–fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fresh fish, fresh other kinds of meat, etc. Therefore, I don’t rotate my food storage at all…because there’s very little in there I eat– I eat some of the rice, canned tuna, water…and much, much more slowly–beans, soups, pasta, etc. But to me, many of the things I store, I would never actually eat unless fresh food were not available. (Interestingly enough, along this line of reasoning, I store seeds and some items needed to plant them).

  24. Mike on November 14, 2005 at 3:15 pm

    When they ask us to store and rotate food, they are asking us to do some other things at the same time that are not immediately obvious.

    There is a reason why modern people pay extra money for the way we eat. It is TIME!

    How long does it take to grind wheat and let the bread rise? How long does it take to soak the beans? You do the math, but whatever you come up with, it is going to be longer than the 5 or 10 minutes many families spend preparing food with microwaves or stopping at some fast food joint before they rush off to YM/YW or the temple or HT/VT or PTA or whatever else we feel we must do to live our busy lives.

    A Hypothetical Calculation: I am going to store 2 years of food and I don’t want to extend the shelf life of my stored food over 5 years and I want to eat about the same amount now as after the disaster. Then I must eat about 40% of my meals from the stored food or I will get behind on my rotation schedule. That would be 8.4 meals a week. Take out lunch for most of us since we are away at work or school (and I am often out to lunch as has been pointed out here before) and that leaves over half of my breakfasts and half of my dinners. I am already getting up mighty early for the seminary routine. Am I suppose to get up yet another hour earlier to grind and boil the wheat? That leaves just about every last dinner and a couple breakfasts on the weekends. I admit that with planning ahead and creativity this problem can be made less. But at some point I run smack up against the clock.

    I notice it is mostly men giving talks in church about storing food and it is mostly women who are the ones stuck with this extra house work. Oh yea, some guys get out the power tools and hammer a few board together to build food storage shelves in the basement and they might heft the big bags of wheat around. But the day-to-day cooking is rarely on their honey-do list. Not many men can cook well enough to make stored food edible.( As Stake Dutch Oven Ancestral Recipe Specialist I can say that with some authority).

    Another problem with stored food is that if we are not careful we do not get enough fresh vegetables and fruits with their essential vitamins and anti-oxidants that probably decrease cancer and a variety of other diseases. We might make it through a few weeks of crisis without as many fruits and vegetables, but we do not want to plan to do without them on any long term basis and rotation implies a long term commitment to eating the stored food.

    Stored food does tend to be lower in sugar, salt and fat. Maybe what they are really trying to tell us is to slow down and eat better. Maybe the store food commandment is a sort of advanced word of wisdom/health code, designed to lower our risk factors for coronary artery disease. Lower your stress, skip all those other things and hang out in the kitchen (doing aerobics) and watch those food storage beans soak until they sprout. Food storage = Mormon yoga.

  25. Frank McIntyre on November 14, 2005 at 3:23 pm

    Mike,

    Thanks for your comment. But doesn’t wheat last for like 30-40 years if stored fairly cold? I understand that rotation is a big deal for many of the short lived items, but with that kind of shelf life, you don’t have to eat it all that fast. And if some does go bad, you don’t have to replace it very often at all. Presumably, this is why wheat is the premier item in food storage.

  26. Peter on November 14, 2005 at 4:55 pm

    It’s really too bad that the price of Garbanzos has shot up in the last few years, and the chickpeas are often unavailable in large quantities. Garbanzos are SO much easier to cook and prepare than beans, easier to rotate, since they can be prepared so many ways. Anyone know where I can purchase them for reasonable $? I’ve burned through all my chickpeas since 2000, and still have oodles of pintos and wheat.

  27. annegb on November 14, 2005 at 4:56 pm

    I sealed wheat in cans in 1973 and it is still good.

  28. Bookslinger on November 14, 2005 at 5:29 pm

    Peter (#25), I bought a 4 pound bag of black chick peas from a local middle-eastern (Indian/Pakistani ) type grocery store. I forget the price I paid. The name of the item is “Kala Chana”, subtitle: Black Chick Peas. Product of Canada. It is “Nirav” brand. The back of the bag says “Distributed by Indian Groceries & Spices, Inc. Main Office: 8051 N. Central Park Ave, Skokie, IL 6075, tel 847-674-2480/1, fax: 847-674-2490″ The UPC code is 0-24433-00630-9.

    The nutrition facts: Serving size 96 grams, approx 1/2 cup (I assume that is dry uncooked.) Calories: 350. fat: 4g. Saturated fat: 0g. Calories from fat 35. Sodium 10mg. Carbohydrates: 63g. Dietary Fiber 33g. Sugars: 1g. Protein 16g. Calcium 20% of Daily Value.

  29. Bookslinger on November 14, 2005 at 5:35 pm

    Annegb:
    Someone in our ward left a bunch of canned wheat from early 1970’s in the coat closet as “take it if you want it.” I tried one and the wheat was dry, and the kernels in one piece (not broken or decomposed), but it didn’t smell good enough to eat. I’m not sure what variety it was. I think it was something other than hard red winter.

    The cans were sealed, but they weren’t vacuum-sealed, as there was no ‘whoosh’ when I opened one with a can opener. There was no oxygen absorber or any other device in there.

    So I guess the devil is in the details: 1) type of wheat, and 2) oxygen evacuation or absorption.

  30. greenfrog on November 14, 2005 at 6:14 pm

    So would it be correct to state that we are encouraged to acquire food stores in order to blunt our otherwise insuperable instinct for self-provision, even at the expense of others, in times of crisis?

    Wouldn’t such an interpretation suggest that the chances of one sharing one’s stored supplies with others in time of crisis are fairly low?

  31. Ana on November 14, 2005 at 6:22 pm

    Frank, mine works great.

  32. Frank McIntyre on November 14, 2005 at 7:02 pm

    Greenfrog,

    I think people are fairly selfish, that is our nature to be overcome. But there is more to it than that. When you buy wheat at the store, you affect the overall market in ways that are very difficult to interpret. If I don’t buy wheat, will the food go to a poor person or just get hoarded by some other middle-classer? On the other hand, food sharing during a crisis can often be quite direct (you help your friends and family members or donate to the Bishop’s storehouse), so that you have confidence that the food you give up is going to someone who does not have any.

    So there could very well be a hoarding problem even though people are willing to share with the poor when they know it is the poor they are sharing with.

  33. scott on November 14, 2005 at 7:53 pm

    Frank writes, “I know that, were there an emergency, the more food I had already stored, the less I would need to add right then. You seem to be correctly envisioning a type of person who stockpiles both now and in emergencies. While I agree that there are people with those preferences, I don’t think that is a good characterization of behavior for members who collect food largely because they’ve been asked to. For them, I think the more they collect now, the less they will in an emergency.”

    I more or less agree that Utah Mormons with large, high quality stores of easy-to-prepare would be less likely to stockpile before a major blizzard than they would if they didn’t have food storage. This is true as long as people collect food “large because they’ve been asked to” and not because of genuine fear, and I agree that the church tries not to encourage an attitude of fear.

    If the church repeatedly emphasized, “Horrible times will come within your life time, possibly very soon. Many people who lack food storage will starve,” then there could be an opposite effect: some people still put off getting food storage out of laziness, but remember the warnings and snap into panic mode when they get worried, hoarding more than they otherwise would have.

    So how would all of this play out in parts of the world that actually experience frequent famines? If leaders of countries in poor part of Africa (or leaders of major religious groups in those regions) gave the same advice that Mormon prophets give, would that increase or decrease panic? It’s not clear to me. What kind of advice is being given already in those regions? Are there a lot of people who can easily afford to store food and aren’t doing it — but who would if there were a sense of obligation?

  34. Frank McIntyre on November 15, 2005 at 10:18 am

    Scott,

    The people do end up storing food in the panic model. They just wait to do it until the last minute. Remember that we are talking about the better off in these societies, not the poor who eventually die in a famine. So yes, in general I think they can keep a store of food if they are just rotating.

    Whether or not the government approaches things right is, of course, always an open question. It is especially an open question when one recognizes how many of the last centuries famines were practically instigated by government policy (as TMD notes above).

    And I just realized who you are. It’s good to see you around, Scott! How’s the family? I heard you guys headed east. You can email me at my last name at byu.edu.

  35. annegb on November 15, 2005 at 1:29 pm

    I just poured the wheat into these big cans and pounded the lids on with a hammer. So far, no unpleasant surprises. We’ll see.

  36. Peter on November 15, 2005 at 2:44 pm

    We found our food storage incredibly useful a couple years back when my company folded and I lost my job. It really cut down on those food bills. The Church encourages self-sufficiency, and food storage promotes that goal as well as others.

    It’s all very good to say that a good government is responsible to its people’s needs, but it’s totalitarian to get suspicious about people who don’t want to rely on the government. Good government cares for the people’s needs, but also encourages self-reliance. Good government builds the fence on top of the cliff, AND provides the ambulance service at the bottom.

  37. Balun Stormhands on November 16, 2005 at 1:23 pm

    #6 That came up a few weeks ago in SS. I commented that a Year’s Supply can feed 1 person 365 days or 365 people for 1 day. Our teacher said she had never thought of it that way. I’ve noticed that attitude is widespread.

    One of the scenarios I am considering is how to feed the 100 or so families in our neighborhood for 3-4 days for relief to arrive after a major but localized disaster. sure most families have several days of food (mostly junk but something) at home in the frig and freezer, but may not have a way to heat them.

    A generator is good especially if you charge batteries with it to conserve fuel to power a freezer and frig and occasional microwave use. A couple 20 pound cylinders of propane will cook food for some time too. The big issue is water, we have a river and lake nearby but filtering and purifying water for that many people is daunting. boiling that much water requires too much fuel.

  38. Mike on November 21, 2005 at 6:42 pm

    Water is a problem. I think the biggest problem, except up north where staying warm might be a bigger one.

    If it is contaminated with bacteria you can boil it. Or put those little iodine tablets in it.

    What about heavy metals? Insecticides or other chemicals? How about radiation? Look at the cesspool in New Orleans. What if you just don’t know what is in it?

    In the heat each person needs at least 1 liter/quart and maybe more every day. That adds up real fast.

    Also if you store water in a few large containers like for example 50 gallon drums, you run the risk of contaminating a large part of it while accessing it multiple times. If you store it in smaller containers the cost goes up.

    I had a bunch of these 50 gallon white plastic containers filled with water, close to a thousand gallons (barter it for food?) and just enough chlorine that I can barely taste it and guess what? Some kind of algae or mold has colonized it and so I added more chlorox and now one of then has probably some new species of chlorox resistant green slime mold or something. Like I have 5 gallons of chlorox in 50 gallons of water and it still grows. A second one has a small little spot of black mold. Tried pressure washing it out and it grew back. Tried sunlight (which is suppose to break up DNA) and the green one grows even better. Anyone want them, come ring my doorbell. I will load them into your pick-up empty for you at no cost.

    What I should test is if the mold makes me sick. If not then who cares? Might be extra calories. Might be penicillin mold. Any volunteers?

    Fuel is intereting. I knew a guy who dug up his lawn and buried 10 tons of coal under it. Then I heard that coal looses its heat if it is even close to the surface for a few years. Most forms of fuel are dangerous and if lots of people store it, a few are going to have problems with it; explosions, house catching on fire, etc. I have noticed that in many disasters there is quite a bit of destruction of something, like trees or houses, etc. So there is usually plenty of fire wood around at the beginning. Might not be very dry and some treated lumber has arsenic and copper in it which are volatile in a fire and could poison you. I have practiced cutting and splitting up wood with an ax and have developed quite a bit of skill now. Last ice storm, no electricirty for about a week and temps in the 20’s, I gave away about 10 cords of firewood to people I split myself. Kept me from getting bored.

    Most of it was loblolly/slash pine and I was told that burning it in the fireplace can cause chimney fires. I’ve been doing it for years but who knows. Did do tyhem a favor by giving them wood that might later start their house on fire? Can’t win.

    PS Frank # 25 Above. I forgot to reply to the issue about storing wheat for 40 years. How secure will you feel at say 25 years eating it? It still might be good, but at some point you will want to not have it any older. I just picked 5 years as an arbitrary point. Definitely the wheat could go longer, but the point is that it costs preparation time to eat stored food and the more of it you eat, the more time. In most of our lives this time is more valuable than money. More wheat might mean less preparation time than storing something else with a shorter shelf life. But it won’t be zero.

    It is like my old car which is 21 years old and has 302,000 miles on it. Do I want to drive it to Utah this winter? Anyone want to ride in it with me? It gets about 30 mpg and would probably make it. It also leaks in the rain, no AC and the key is stuck in the ignition. The front end is shaking around pretty bad and my dad says it might have a front wheel go flying off any time. Of course I took it up camping in with the boy scouts last month and we got horsing around in it on some very rough dirt roads going about 80 mph. I can’t believe that the wheel is going to fall off anytime soon if it survived that abuse. But I still won’t drive it far from home. Would you?

    Some people replace their car every two years. Same with the wheat; I would rather not be dependent on really old wheat. Five years sounded like a good time to replace it.

    A Japanese friend kept his two years of food for two years and then just pitched it all out and bought more of it. Gave it to the missionaries or something. That might work for some.