Have a food allergy or dietary restriction?

Vegan Vegetarian Gluten Free

How to prepare emergency kits for those with food allergies, vegetarians, vegans and the gluten-free

By Stephanie Heckman, Communications Volunteer

As a 20-something, I know many people with food allergies, celiac disease or who have variations of a gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan diet. I am also a vegan of six years. What happens when those of us with allergies, food restrictions or special diets encounter emergencies? It’s essential to remember that most disaster shelters will cater to the Standard American Diet and may have little other options.

Most Americans still have not prepared an emergency kit. According to the Red Cross, only 1 in 10 Americans have prepared an emergency kit or made plans to prepare for disasters. An Adelphi University survey found that 44% of American homes lack first aid kits while 48% do not have emergency supplies. In 2011, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) made 99 major emergency declarations, the highest number since 1953. According to an Allstate Insurance poll, 27% of Americans would not evacuate their homes during a natural disaster.

When disasters strike a town or city, food sources, clean water, and medicine can easily run out in days. A well-stocked emergency kit should store a gallon of clean water, nonperishable food, first aid supplies, necessary medications, a list of prescription drugs, and other essentials such as a flashlight, can opener, matches or lighter, and batteries. If you have companion animals, you should also stock pet food, a carrier, leash and harness, the pet’s ID and veterinary record, a pet first aid kit, and any prescription medications.

For vegetarians, vegans or those who eat little meat, it’s essential to stock quick and nutritious sources of protein. Beans, lentils and nuts are a highly affordable and high-in-protein source for non-vegetarians as well. This can include cans of garbanzo, kidney, chili, black, red, white, or refried beans. Other protein sources include canned peas, black eyed peas, dried beans and lentils, a variety of dried unsalted nuts, vegan jerky strips, and peanut or almond butters. One may also consider stocking up on vegetable broth and non-refrigerated soy, coconut or almond non-dairy milks.

For those who are gluten-free, one should stock up on brown rice, quinoa, barley and other gluten-free grains. These grains are also highly nutritious and contain more protein than white rice or pasta. Other gluten-free options include canned corn, GF energy bars, dehydrated food, powdered beverages, and bags of tea. The Gluten Free Insider has great advice on building gluten-free emergency kits. One suggestion is to store dried seasonings and herbs to spice up boring canned foods.

Regardless of your diet or lifestyle, an emergency kit is essential for everyone. For easy and well-informative Red Cross information on how to build one, click here.

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