For decades, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been urged to keep a year’s supply of food, even fuel if possible, to be prepared in the event of an emergency.
“Let us again encourage each individual and family to be fully prepared in the elements of personal and family preparedness,” Elder Thomas S. Monson, then of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, reiterated in 1981.
Generations ago, preparedness meant buckets of wheat and a grinder in the basement, packages of yeast in the cupboard or refrigerator, and bread making skills learned in youth. Even very young children picked fruit and snipped beans for home canning. Rows upon rows of sparkling fruits and vegetables graced the shelves of many a home.
Since those early years, businesses have sprung up to help families in their quests for preparedness. Initially the companies sold those basic supplies. Eventually some added freeze dried fruits or vegetables to their offerings. Some created basic bases, such as chicken- or beef-soup base. Feeding a family with the items stored was still a matter of knowing how to combine those ingredients and having the necessary appliances or other methods to cook them.
Today, the variety of retailers offering storage items has broadened and so have their goods. You can find an emergency blanket at local bookstores or a no. 10 can of powdered eggs at a big box retailer.
Some Utah County companies specialize in emergency supplies and even ship them around the country. Family Storehouse in American Fork and Emergency Essentials with four stores, one in Orem, are two of those.
Even since their establishment, the trends regarding the needs and wants of the public have changed.
“For years the preparedness groups told us to store corn, beans and wheat,” said Josh Baum, president of Family Storehouse. “For the past two or three years people have really gotten into doing pre-made meals. A lot of the younger generation — they don’t even know how to cook. They are not storing the individual items.”
“Some of the people just getting started don’t know where to start,” he said. “It becomes daunting. Pre-made meals make it easy to shop and they already know what they like.”
“Two or three generations ago, people stored dry milk and grains, in no. 10 cans,” said Kevan Allbee, marketing director of Emergency Essentials. “Now people like ready-made meals in buckets. They can have between a three- and 30-day supply of meals. Right now we are seeing a lot of people who are looking at a ‘one-and-done’ kind of solution.”
The most important essential
The two also agreed that the most important thing to store is water.
“We like to think it is food, but really, if you don’t have three to five days’ worth of clean water, you are in trouble, Allbee said. “A contamination issue in the city could really set you back. In Houston now the number one commodity is water.”
“Look at the natural disasters going on right now,” Baum said. “They are talking about water. It becomes an immediate need.” He said in some places in Houston water was selling for $45 a case.
“Water is the easiest and most inexpensive part of your preparedness plan,” Allbee said. He suggested adding a quarter-cup of bleach to an 80 gallon container of water. It doesn’t affect the taste, but helps maintain its purity. Another way to make stored water more palatable is to pour it back and forth between containers before drinking, which restores some of the aeration that naturally occurs in water.
Reports of an earthquake, flood, hurricane, fire or other natural disaster can cause an upsurge in the sales of emergency preparedness food and related items. However, those do not last too long.
“Three days later and we are right back to normal,” Baum said.
Fear is a short-term motivator to encourage people to prepare for emergencies, Allbee said.
“We try to educate and inform and let that motivate people to get ready,” he said.
Other increases in sales come with the seasons. Baum reported the holidays are times when people purchase gifts of preparedness items. September is a time of increased sales for Emergency Essentials, Allbee said, since people seem to have more disposable income to work toward those goals, perhaps after they have finished back-to-school purchases.
Sometimes there is an increase following General Conferences of the LDS Church.
“One phrase is all you need and we have more people looking to buy food,” Allbee said.
The emergency food is usually thought of as preparation for a large natural disaster. However, it is good to have in case of loss of employment, injury accident or illness — anything that interrupts a family’s income. In the event of a disaster for which a family may have to leave its home, there are various types of emergency kits, including a “bug out” bag, food and water supply, and first aid supplies.
“This morning I was straightening a few things up and thinking that there are people right now who are opening their cans, water jugs and containers,” Allbee said. “They can help children who are sitting in the dark. There is a great deal of anxiety and stress they are going through. What we are sending these people will bring that stress level down. It is very satisfying to know that it really does help.”