Stock up on canned fruits, vegetables, meats, and heat-and-eat soups for your hurricane food supply kit. Photo source: UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.
Now that we are officially in Hurricane Season (June1-November 30) and named storms are paying a call to the Sunshine State, it’s time to make sure we are prepared.
At the top of the list is planning meals for you and your family. Many people grab snack-type foods, such as crackers, cookies, and chips, or whatever is available on store shelves when the storm is approaching without having a meal plan in mind. Use MyPlate as a guide to plan meals to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and dairy products. Foods from each food group provide important vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to properly fuel your body so you are better equipped to deal with the challenges and stresses that accompany hurricanes and other disasters.
Plan a two-week supply of nonperishable or canned food and juices that require little or no cooking and no refrigeration. Include healthy snacks and any special foods for infants, senior adults, or persons with specific dietary needs. Select foods your family likes and will eat. Plan meals and shop early before a storm is on the horizon so you have a greater food selection and can take advantage of sales to stock up at a reduced cost. Keep planned written menus that have worked well for you and your family inside your hurricane food supply kit in a re-sealable plastic bag.
Brenda Marty-Jimenez, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent with UF/IFAS Extension Broward County, offers the following menu suggestions:
Apple juice • ready-to-eat cereal • small boxes of raisins • breakfast bars with fruit • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Orange juice • hot cereal/instant oatmeal • banana • muffin • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Grape juice •ready-to-eat cereal • canned peaches • yogurt • bread with jam or jelly • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Chunky beef soup (ready-to-eat style that only needs heating) • crackers • carrot and celery sticks • nuts • fruit cups packed in water • vanilla wafers • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Canned cream soup (ready-to-eat style that only needs heating) • tuna sandwich on whole-wheat bread • tomato slices • unsweetened applesauce • cookies • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Canned chili with beans (ready-to-eat style that only needs heating) • dinner rolls with margarine or butter • broccoli florets • canned fruit • animal crackers • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Canned meat or cheese ravioli • three-bean salad (canned) • fresh yellow apples • bread with margarine or butter • fat-free pudding cup • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Egg-salad sandwich on whole-wheat bread • canned green beans • canned fruit • fat-free pudding cup • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Mac and cheese • canned vegetable • fresh pears • dinner rolls with margarine or butter • cookies • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Remember the four key food safety principles: Cook, Clean, Chill, and Separate.
- Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of cooked foods.
- Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. Sanitize food preparation and cooking surfaces regularly.
- Put leftovers in sealed bags or shallow containers and pack on ice or store in the refrigerator if it is running on a generator. Dispose of food that has been at room temperature for more than two hours (one hour if the temperature is 90oF or above) or has an off-odor, color, or texture.
- Toss out food that has come in contact with contaminated flood water. Do not eat foods from dented, swollen, or corroded cans, even though the food may appear safe to eat.
For more hurricane meal planning ideas and tips, visit: http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/browardco/2020/06/01/hurricane-preparedness-meal-and-menu-planning/
Blackberries are one of the easiest fruiting crops to grow in the North Florida Garden. Fruits mature during the month of May and early June. If you don’t plan to eat your blackberries fresh, learn some quick tips from UF IFAS Escambia County Extension for saving blackberries for a special treat later on.
A dent can lead to food spoilage in canned products.
Photo source: Heidi Copeland
It started with a visible dark line running down the pantry wall. My eye traced the dark line up to an upper shelf, only to realize a can of food was leaking. My first reaction was, “Oh, no! Botulism!” then I quickly recognized that the guilty can contained a highly acidic food, which hinders the growth of Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium that causes botulism.
A yeast more likely caused the line creeping along the wall. However, it still made for a fun afternoon of cleaning and inspecting every remaining can in the pantry.
As the photo illustrates, the can was leaking from a tiny, indecipherable breach. Perhaps there was a small dent in the can when it was purchased. Maybe it was dropped and the damage went unnoticed. However, one thing that is certain is that purchasing and storing a damaged can is cause for concern. Dents, punctures, or even rough handling can compromise the integrity of a can, which can lead to leaks and contamination.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitors the safety and integrity of canned foods. The incidence of spoilage in canned foods is low, but when it occurs, it is important to know what to do. In most cases, the best actions to take are to discard the food immediately and thoroughly clean any contaminated areas. NEVER open a bulging or leaking can. Wear protective equipment, especially gloves, when handling damaged and leaking cans.
The table below includes useful descriptive terms used in the canned food industry – it is a helpful tool for the consumer, too.
Photo source: www.fda.gov
From a cursory glance, I learned externally, my can was a leaker. The can was ever so slightly dented; perhaps the dent caused a weakness, the can rusted, and the liquid started to drain out.
Because of this canned food misadventure, my pantry got an early spring-cleaning. All the items around the offending can were removed, inspected, and thoroughly cleaned. The shelves and walls were also cleaned to remove any residue.
Cleaning the pantry should not just be done when something leaks, however. The cans and boxes in the pantry should be regularly rotated (first in, first out: FIFO) as well as inspected for pests and/or damage, and the shelves and walls should be periodically cleaned to help prevent any cross-contamination.
Other than leakage, mold, or other obvious clues that canned food is spoiled, there are other signs as well, some of which may not be noticeable until after the can is opened. Some of these include:
- The can lid does not seem attached correctly: it moves when touched or is bulging.
- The food spurts out when the can is opened.
- The can is rusting or corroded. Both rust and corrosion will eventually create tiny holes that let both air and bacteria into the food can.
- Dents: dents compromise the integrity of metal, causing a breach. Even the smallest breach in the can may lead to contamination and spoilage.
- Sound: an unnatural, loud hiss when the can is opened can be a sign of unwanted fermentation or other biological processes.
- Unpleasant smells are a good way to detect possible spoilage, even if the food still looks good.
Visual inspections are important in the food world. Do not wait until there is a mess in the pantry before taking an inventory and weeding out the old and damaged products. It is important to rotate even canned food to keep it from sitting too long. Store newer items behind older ones to ensure items are used before their expiration dates.
For more information about food safety and proper food storage, please contact:
Heidi Copeland, Leon County Extension Office, 850.606.5229.
Samantha Kennedy, Wakulla County Extension Office, 850.926.3931
Spring has arrived. It is fresh produce season. The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend that half your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. Select a rainbow of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables to enhance your diet.
Keep It Fresh
Photo Source: UF/IFAS
There is a bountiful supply of fruits and vegetables during the Spring and Summer months. Grocery stores, famers markets, and backyard gardens abound with abundant supply of fresh produce.
Recently fresh produce has been linked to various outbreaks of foodborne illness. These problems are becoming more common and it is important as a consumer to know how to handle fresh produce safely.
Safe Produce Handling Tips
Purchase vegetables and fruits that look and smell fresh. Purchase only the amount you will use in a few days. Most vegetables and fruits with the exception of apples, potatoes, and citrus don’t store well for long periods of time.
Put produce away promptly. Most whole produce will keep best stored in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator crisper drawer where the humidity is highest. Tomatoes and potatoes are two exceptions. Tomatoes taste better if stored at room temperature. Potatoes stay fresh longer if stored in a cool, dry, dark place. Cut produce should be stored in the refrigerator in covered containers. Bacteria can grow on cut surfaces of produce.
Rinse whole produce thoroughly under clean running tap water, just before you are ready to use. Do not wash fruits and vegetables with detergent. Scrub or rub as needed to remove surface contamination. Wash produce such as oranges and melons even if you don’t eat the rind or skin. When you cut into a fruit or vegetable, any bacteria that is on the surface can be transferred to the inner flesh. Check the label instructions on fresh bagged produce. For example; use by date, pre-washed, and ready to eat. Discard stored fruits and vegetables that appear moldy or smell musty.
It is essential to our health to preserve the nutrition that is found in fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals that the body needs to maintain optimal health. Following those easy safe produce tips can help preserve freshness and assure safe produce handling.
Photo source: Heidi Copeland
According to industry standards, some of these carrots could not be sold because of “Serious damage” or any defect which seriously affects the general appearance of the
carrots in the container.
Waste less, save money is a great creed to live by. Really, it is that simple. One excellent example of this is food. Research indicates that 40% of all food in America is wasted yet, one in eight Americans does not have enough access to affordable, nutritious food. In other words, they are “food insecure.”
Wasted food is a MASSIVE problem at the commercial, institutional and residential levels. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates there is more food than any other single material in our everyday trash and that approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption worldwide is lost or wasted. In fact, in 2015, the USDA joined with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set a goal to cut our nation’s food waste by 50 percent by the year 2030.
The sad fact is, most people do not realize how much impact food and food waste has on the earth and its issues of sustainability. Food waste occurs at every level of involvement. Examples of food waste include growing, processing (by-products too), transporting, point of sale, plate waste and uneaten prepared foods, and kitchen trimmings and their eventual disposal. Preventing food waste at all these levels can make a difference in addressing this issue.
However, preventing food waste it is not as easy as it seems. Many consumer factors also contribute to the problem.
- Food date labels confuse people. Use by/sell by dates are not always about food safety but about peak quality. Many foods are still safe to eat after their dates. Inspect “expired” foods closely via sight and smell before consuming – find ways to use up food past its prime.
- Households overbuy – do you really need super sizes? Buying in bulk is not always less expensive if much of it is discarded. Only purchase what you know you will use and do not get lured in by the “more for less” deals.
- Massive portions are often served – share or learn to love leftovers. Split enormous portions into multiple meals.
- Grocery stores overstock their shelves to maintain an image of abundance.
- People demand “perfect” produce. Farmers have a hard time selling less than stellar items. “Ugly” fruits and vegetables are just as delicious and nutritious as their more photogenic counterparts. Places such as farmers’ markets and community gardens are good places to find imperfect produce that would otherwise go to waste.
This Earth Day, (an event first celebrated on April 22, 1970 in the United States and is now a globally coordinated event in more than 193 countries) commit yourself to taking an action. As the late Neil Armstrong famously quoted as he stepped on to the moon… “This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind!” If each of us considered and implemented our own practical or creative approaches to preventing food from going to waste what would our collective actions mean for mankind?
Photo Source: Heidi Copeland
The best way to reduce food loss at home is not to create it in the first place. Not only would we individually save money, our collective efforts could conserve resources for future generations. The best method is the one you use.
- Reduce wasted food – shop smart, plan what you purchase, and use it, ALL of it!
- Maximize the efficiency of your refrigerator based on science. Read your refrigerator manual to learn where the coldest spots in the refrigerator are and what foods benefit from refrigerator location.
- Maximize the efficacy of canned products… use the FIFO (first in first out) method of rotation to use the oldest product before the newest on the shelf.
- Donate what you cannot use to others.
- Divert food scraps to animal food (chickens anyone?)
- Landfill as the last resort.
Common causes of personal food waste include overbuying, over preparing and spoilage. The basic tenets of sustainability – reduce, reuse, recycle and refuse, work to reduce food waste too! Pay attention to purchases, eat what is prepared, store food properly, and refuse to waste. We can all do our part! Let’s start today.
Food waste is a huge problem here in the United States. Here are a few incredible facts: Food is the most common solid source of waste in American landfills. Anywhere from 25-40% of food grown, processed, and transported in the US will never be eaten. Food waste harms the environment and results in a lot of wasted money.
Looking for ways to reduce food waste? Just follow these six tips.
Plan meals carefully. Only purchase what will be eaten in a reasonable amount of time, especially perishable items. Buying large quantities of fresh produce, dairy, and other perishables may seem like a time-saving practice. However, throwing spoiled food away not only wastes money, but also time, since the spoiled items need to be replaced during another trip to the market.
Instead of throwing old fruits and vegetables away, turn them into nutrient-rich compost to help your garden thrive. (Photo source: Camila Guillen, UF/IFAS)
Freeze or re-use food whenever possible. Not all food freezes well. However, fresh fruits and vegetables freeze quickly and easily when handled properly and can last in the freezer for months. Vegetable scraps are also great for making compost, which enriches the soil and can help support the growth of backyard gardens.
Look at the sell by/use by/best by dates on food products. Try to purchase items with the longest shelf-life (the latest date) available. If a product is close to its sell by date, be sure to use it or freeze it quickly. Keep in mind, however, that just because a product is past its use by date does not mean it is unsafe to eat. Take it on a case-by-case basis. If there is no mold, pests, off odors, off colors, or off textures, the product is safe to consume. This is especially true for dry, non-perishable items.
Store food properly. Storing foods at the wrong temperatures can speed up the spoilage process. Keep the refrigerator between 37 and 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Dry goods storage should ideally be around 50 degrees F, but since this is not realistic for most of us, just make sure dry goods are stored in a cool, dry place outside of direct sunlight.
Stay organized. Arrange items so that the oldest stuff is in front. This helps ensure it is used first. Always label frozen foods with the item name and date it was first frozen and use within 12 months whenever possible. Foods frozen for longer than a year start to diminish in flavor and texture. Old food also tends to attract pests, so making sure things are used efficiently can help eliminate the risk of insects and rodents.
Donate non-perishables to those in need. Food banks and other community organizations are always looking for food donations to help the hungry. Non-perishable foods that have not surpassed their use by/sell by dates are always welcome donations. Instead of trashing it, share it with someone less fortunate.
In most cases, food affected by flood damage or other disasters should be discarded for safety reasons. Better to be safe than sorry. However, everyday food waste is completely avoidable if a few simple rules are followed. The amount of food thrown away each year in the US is disheartening. When shopping, being a little more mindful of quantities and dates can help reduce overall food waste, saving both money and the environment.
National Center for Home Food Preservation (University of Georgia Extension)
Food Waste Resources (Kansas State University Extension)
UF/IFAS is an Equal Opportunity Institution.