Emergency Preparedness for Gluten-Free Individuals
Being prepared for an emergency or natural disaster includes many components. Food planning is one of these. For people who require a gluten-free diet, extra attention needs to be paid to having safe food available, whether isolated at home or at an emergency shelter.
One of the additional aspects of preparedness is having an extra supply of prescription medication on hand. This is especially important when you are gluten-free since you may not have access to your usual pharmacy which routinely accommodates your need for gluten-free prescriptions.
For detailed information on all non-food-related aspects of emergency preparedness, go to the following two websites.
The Red Cross recommends having a three day supply of food on hand in an evacuation kit, and a two week supply at home for a situation when you may be unable to access outside help or supplies. In both cases, foods included should be those that can be stored and consumed without refrigeration or cooking, since access to either may be cut off. This means shelf-stable items that are canned, tetra-packed, dried, or otherwise shelf-stable. Be sure to include a hand-operated can opener in your emergency supplies.
Having connections with a local or regional gluten-free support group – and/or with other gluten-free individuals in your area – can also provide an extra layer of security, since these could be sources of gluten-free food if other supplies and sources are unavailable. (Local GIG support groups: https://gluten.org/community/)
Food Item Selection
Include a variety of nutrient-dense foods, and avoid very salty foods that lead to excess thirst, since water may be in short supply. A “nutrient-dense” food is one that contains a relatively high concentration of essential nutrients in proportion to the energy (calories) it provides, or in proportion to the weight/size of the food. Selecting nutrient-dense foods in terms of nutrients per weight/size of the food is relevant for emergency supply planning because the items in your evacuation kit may need to be physically carried with you, so smaller size/weight can be important. If you have plenty of space for your two week home supply, then size/weight may not be a factor you need to consider, but you still want to choose foods that are nutrient-dense so they provide the essential nutrients you need to stay nourished and healthy. In addition, we all know that food provides more than just sustenance and nutrition – it provides comfort too. So be sure to include some favorite comfort foods too; these can be especially good to have during a potentially stressful emergency situation.
Ideas on food items to include (always confirm gluten-free status)
– Lighter weight foods to include in an evacuation kit include freeze-dried, dehydrated, dried, and tetra-packed, vs. heavier canned items.
- Meats/poultry/fish: Cooked and ready to eat in shelf-stable pouches or cans
- Beans/lentils: shelf-stable pouches/ cans
- Vegetables: canned/ dehydrated
- Fruits: dried/ canned
- Milk/milk alternatives: tetra packed shelf stable, canned, dried
- Grains and grain-based (gluten-free) foods: crackers, shelf-stable wraps/tortillas, dry cereal, granola.
- Energy or protein bars
- Canned or tetra-packed juice
- Nuts and seeds and nut butters
Note: be sure to include a hand-operated can opener in your emergency supplies.
Gluten-Free Food Availability in a Shelter
If you need to evacuate to an emergency shelter, can you be sure there will be gluten-free food available? Unfortunately, not necessarily. Part of your emergency preparedness plan can include contacting your local Red Cross or other emergency shelters (during a non-emergency time) to find out about their expected capability to provide gluten-free food. To be prepared for being at a shelter which has very limited or potentially no gluten-free food options, it would be wise to increase the size of your evacuation food supply.