Most Frequently Asked Questions … Food Storage

“Most Frequently Asked Questions … Food Storage,” Tambuli, Apr. 1978, 43

Most Frequently Asked Questions … Food Storage

How does home production and storage fit into the Church’s personal and family preparedness program?

Like all other major programs of the Church, preparedness is centered in the individual and the family. Its central concept is one of provident living, not just reaction to emergencies. Home production is one of six important elements of the personal and family preparedness program (see diagram):

Elements of preparedness

1. Literacy and Education. The prepared person reads, writes, and does basic mathematics; regularly studies the scriptures and other good books; and uses local resources to teach these skills and habits to all family members. Parents and children should take advantage of public and other educational opportunities.

2. Career Development. Each head of a household should select a suitable vocation or profession and pursue appropriate training. Each young person should receive counsel to help him select a career that will satisfy family economic needs and provide personal satisfaction.

3. Financial and Resource Management. The prepared person should establish financial goals, pay tithes and offerings, avoid debt, wisely use and preserve economic resources, and save during times of production for times of nonproduction.

4. Home Production. Each person or family should produce as much as possible through gardening, and as much as appropriate through sewing and making household items. Each person and family should learn techniques of home canning, freezing, and drying foods, and where legally permitted should store and save a one-year supply of food, clothing, and, if possible, fuel.

5. Physical Health. Every member should obey the Word of Wisdom and practice sound principles of nutrition, physical fitness, weight control, immunization, environmental quality and sanitation, mother and child health, accident prevention, dental health, and medical care. In addition, each member should acquire appropriate health-related skills in first aid and safety, home nursing, and food selection and preparation.

6. Social-Emotional and Spiritual Strength. Each person should build spiritual strength to meet life’s challenges and stresses with confidence and stability by learning to love God and communicate with him in personal prayer, by learning to love and serve his neighbor, and by learning to love and respect himself through righteous living and self-mastery. Each family should understand that social and emotional strength is a blessing that results from spiritual growth through obedience to revealed principles of family living.

If fathers and mothers will actively plan and prepare their families in all these areas, great strength in these six areas in the proper balance can result—for the Church as well as the family. Families will not only be prepared for emergencies, but their ability to husband resources, to exercise wise stewardship, to prevent problems, and to make the best of everyday living will also be enhanced.

Personal and family preparedness is the key to self-reliance and family integrity in the Church’s total welfare program.

How much would the Church be able to help its members in case of widespread disaster or economic collapse? Would the bishops’ storehouses be able to take care of everybody?

The bishops’ storehouses have always been geared to care only for the “poor and needy and distressed” among us at normal, everyday levels of need. Therefore, the storehouse system carries only a year’s supply of commodities to meet the present level of member needs. It is not possible to maintain a backup supply to cover the needs of all the families of the Church.

In cases of localized emergency—Idaho’s Teton Dam disaster, for example—the Church Production-Distribution Division is able to call upon Church resources, including the bishops’ storehouses, to send aid to those in need. But if a major, widespread disaster were to occur, the storehouse supplies would be depleted very quickly.

This is one of the reasons why the family’s year’s supply is so important. During good times, our welfare projects can meet ordinary commodity needs and pay their own operating costs. But if times were to become more demanding, the members of the Church would be obliged to live from their food supplies while they and Church leaders worked to produce adequate crops and other supplies.

What exactly are our responsibilities in the area of home production and storage?

Responsibility for the well-being of members of the Church lies first with the individual, then with the family, and last of all with the Church. In keeping with this principle, our families should seek to become self-reliant and independent in home production and storage by:

1. Producing food on our own property, and also producing appropriate non-food necessities of life wherever that is practical.

2. Learning the best methods of preserving that which we produce.

3. Properly storing whatever we have, using the methods that are best suited to our areas. The Church recommends that we store at least a year’s supply of food and clothing, and, where possible, fuel. A supply of water is also important. The food we store should be appropriate to our diets, beginning with the basics and adding what we are able to from there. (See Ensign, May 1976, pp. 116–18; November 1976, pp. 121–22.)

4. Using what we have in an appropriate manner, practicing thrift and avoiding waste.

A year’s supply costs a lot of money—money I don’t have right now. Since it is important that my family does have a year’s supply, should I borrow enough money to get it right now?

No. The teaching of the Church is that we don’t go into debt for anything of this nature.

When the Welfare Services program of the Church was first being established, President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., advised, “Let us avoid debt as we would avoid a plague; where we are now in debt, let us get out of debt; if not today, then tomorrow. Let us straightly and strictly live within our incomes, and save a little.” (Conference Reports, April 1937, p. 26.)

We still adhere to that counsel; and although storage is extremely important, it would not do to violate one principle in order to live another.

Families can live both principles by planning to gather their basic supplies in an orderly and systematic way as means permit. There are many ways besides borrowing to get started on food storage.

As President Kimball has said, “Preparedness, when properly pursued, is a way of life, not a sudden, spectacular program.” (October 1976, Regional Representatives Seminar address.)

Why do we need a year’s supply? Doesn’t the Church have production projects to take care of its members?

The primary purpose of Church production projects is to provide food and nonfood commodities for the bishops’ storehouses, so that when there is a need a bishop or a branch president can draw upon these commodities for the care of the poor and needy and distressed.

The production projects also provide work opportunities where parents can work side by side with their children and with other members of the Church from all walks of life. These are great opportunities for consecrating time and talents, for sharing, and for the growth of brotherhood and sisterhood. Among other things, these projects also serve as usable, working land reserves and help members learn and retain the skills necessary to maintain their independence and self-sufficiency in time of need.

A large number of the Church’s production projects are agricultural—farms, orchards, dairy and cheese projects, livestock projects, honey projects, poultry farms, and the like. There are also non-food projects in addition to canneries, bakeries, and other processing enterprises.

Members of the Church have the opportunity and obligation to fulfill project assignments as they are given through the wards and branches. In this way, a constant supply of commodities can be assured. They also have the opportunity to consecrate their resources through generous fast offerings and other welfare donations, so that the needs of the poor and needy and distressed in the wards and branches may be met.

What can members of the Church do in countries where food storage is unlawful?

Only a few countries still have regulations that prohibit citizens from storing food. Most such regulations that are still on the books are the result of conditions that no longer exist. Many, for example, are carry-overs from the war years, when food was very scarce and hoarding was a real problem. In such instances, members of the Church and other citizens might do whatever is lawful and prudent and appropriate to change these laws. Where this is not possible, there are other alternatives.

For example, home production can be emphasized where home storage is not possible. Families can become proficient in producing appropriate non-food necessities. They can learn the principles of thrift and industry. They can grow gardens. A great deal of food can be kept in reserve right in the ground.

Another option is “live storage.” In many circumstances where it is unlawful to store food on shelves, it is perfectly legal to store it “on the hoof” in the form of cows, chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, etc., or in a constantly used garden; and thus it is possible to maintain a considerable supply of some basic foods.

Also, in many instances where it is against the law to store food in large quantities, it is still legal to have several weeks’ supply on hand.

Should students or those who move around a lot or those who live in small apartments try to store food and other supplies?

Students, who have limited space, who move frequently, and who are not yet launched in their family life, should look carefully at their own needs and priorities, keeping in mind the principle that individuals and families have the first responsibility for their own well-being in all circumstances. Barbara B. Smith, general president of the Relief Society, when asked if Young Adult sisters should try to start a food storage program, replied:

“We’re really not encouraging them to get into an extensive food storage program while in school, but we do think they should learn provident living; how to plan, budget, and save for tomorrow. They can learn to have more than one or two weeks of supplies on hand. They can learn sound purchasing habits.” (Ensign, March 1977, p. 37.)

However, if you are in school and married or out of school and establishing yourself, and if small apartments or moving around a lot are a regular pattern in your life, you should work on overcoming the limitations of your situation: “Often in rather limited space, basic food items such as wheat, dried milk, sugar or honey, and salt can be stored. Closets, attics, space under beds, or even space made available by family or friends can be utilized for food storage.” In this case, “it is better to have food storage sufficient for a few months than to have no storage at all. (Essentials of Home Storage pamphlet.)

Some additional methods of storage for those in this situation are:

1. Store food in dual-purpose places, e.g., as the foundation for a mattress, under a table, etc.

2. Join with other families in similar circumstances and all contribute to a “perpetual” community supply of some sort, which would continue for others even after you leave. (This is not an ideal arrangement, but is one alternative. In a real crisis, we should be willing to share whatever food we have with others anyway.)

3. If possible, share with your own parents or “adopt” another permanent family and contribute to their food storage program, with the understanding that they would share with you during an emergency.

What are good substitutes for those who live in tropical or semitropical climates?

Tropical and semitropical climates offer opportunities not available in the temperate zones. In the tropics, year-round gardens with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are possible. The cereal grains can be replaced by taro, manioca, or sweet potatoes, all of which can be left unharvested for a considerable length of time and can thus be stored in the ground. Powdered milk can be replaced by fish, poultry, or hogs.

Since the high temperatures of a tropical climate shorten the shelf life of stored foods, such commodities should be rotated through a period of several months rather than the year period recommended for a temperate climate. All foods should be stored in the coolest possible location. Dried foods are susceptible to high humidity and must be kept dry.