Disaster Preparedness: Gluten-Free Needs
If you’ve noticed that natural disasters seem to be more common and more devastating in recent years, you’re not alone. A recent cover story in Newsweek addressed the wild weather that has wreaked havoc across the U.S. in 2011 alone. Floods, tornados, wild fires – they all beg the question: Are you prepared?
When residents are displaced, safe zones and shelters become a vital source for food and health needs. Gluten-free families, however, face the added challenge of maintaining their dietary needs while away from home. Fresh produce and other gluten-free options are typically limited, especially since donated items are often non-perishable foods that contain gluten.
After the recent tornados, individuals called for donations of gluten-free products to feed victims who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. It got us thinking about ways to arm yourself before disaster strikes.
Natural disasters may be unpredictable, but you can still make every effort to be prepared. Consider these tips to ensure your family’s needs are met:
- Pack an emergency kit. We asked our Facebook fans for suggestions of what they’d include in a gluten-free emergency kit. While many admitted they had never thought of it, we all agreed it’s a good thing to keep on hand.
- Bottled water
- Gluten-free energy bars
- Small packs of nuts or dried fruit (watch those seasonings!)
- A few cans of gluten-free soup
- Canned tuna
- Shelf stable gluten-free bread or crackers
- Peanut butter
- Canned fruit
- Gluten-free jerky
- Powdered milk or non-dairy substitute
- Celiac-safe freeze-dried meals (StoreHouse Foods has a bunch of yummy options – and they’re a member of NFCA’s GREAT Business Association)
- Important medications
- Bowl(s) and set of utensils
- Can opener
- Aluminum foil (for cooking packets)
If you need to evacuate, bring the emergency kit. You never know how long it will be before you reach a destination that offers gluten-free options. And as our Facebook fan Colleen Cook recommended, check the expiration dates on your stock every few months and replace anything that has gone bad.
- Find out which locations in your town are designated as emergency shelters (i.e. hospitals, firehouses) and who is in charge of disaster response. Speak to that person (or department) about gluten-free needs, or invite them to a support group meeting so they can anticipate any supply challenges. (While you’re at it, encourage hospitals to get gluten-free foodservice training through NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program.)
- Talk to your kids’ teachers to find out if their school has a disaster plan. Facebook fan Amy Young noted that her kids’ schools request a 3-day supply of gluten-free food to keep on hand in case of emergency.
- If a disaster strikes and you find yourself at a shelter, do what you can to avoid gluten exposure. Ask volunteers about the food they are distributing, and read the labels on any cans or packages of food. Request that volunteers change gloves before they serve your meal.
- If no gluten-free options are available, make your needs known. The disaster response team may be able to secure a safe stock of food or, if possible, request gluten-free items.
- Remember to thank anyone who helps you out. It’s a hectic time, so they’ll appreciate knowing the difference they made.