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Prairie Fare: Be Prepared for Disastrous Situations

Our basement storeroom and pantry were wading ponds.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

Our cell phone rang during a recent dinner party, the first one my husband and I had attended as a couple in a long time. Our son was “in charge” of his younger sisters at home, so we were staying connected.

“Mom, there’s water under the table where you have lots of plants,” our son said.

“Did you water the plants today? I think the pots are leaking,” I whispered to my husband.

“I didn’t water the plants,” he said.

“Just wipe up the water with a towel. We’ll be home in about 20 minutes,” I told my son.

About two minutes later the phone rang again.

“Mom, there’s too much water to wipe up!” he exclaimed.

I became a little concerned and handed the phone to my husband to see if I was hearing correctly.

“Get some more towels and we’ll be on our way home soon,” he said.

About a minute later, our son’s panicked voice again was on the phone.

“Mom, water is pouring out of the ceiling in the basement!” he yelled.

“OK, we’re leaving right now!” I exclaimed, practically running out of the house.

I was afraid of what we’d find. On the way home, we quickly instructed our son how to turn off the water throughout our home.

Our basement storeroom and pantry now were wading ponds. A ceiling water pipe connected to an outside spigot had burst in the extremely cold weather, dumping water in our basement.

Our 9-year-old daughter was waiting for us in knee-high rubber boots, mop and bucket in hand, ready to take the matter into her own hands.

Thank heavens for plastic totes, a submersible pump, wet-dry vacuum and helpful kids.

At the time, this seemed like a disaster, but we cleaned it up fairly quickly and fixed the problem. Thinking back, the annoying situation certainly paled in comparison with the tornado and floods I’ve experienced firsthand.

As our region has coped with numerous disaster situations, we in the Extension Service have fielded many food safety questions. Here are some questions and answers based on information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Q: We had a fire in our home. Can I salvage any of the food?

  • Discard food that has been near a fire. Even though food in jars or cans may appear to be OK, the materials may have tiny cracks or the seams may be split.
  • Discard any food in permeable packaging, such as cardboard or plastic wrap. Exposure to toxic fumes and fire-fighting chemicals may cause the food to be unsafe.
  • Decontaminate cookware exposed to fire-fighting chemicals by washing in hot, soapy water, rinsing and then sanitizing for 15 minutes by submerging the cookware in a sanitizing solution consisting of 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach per gallon of water.

Q: My power went off during a blizzard. If it happens again, can I store my food in a snow bank?

  • Don’t store food where it can be exposed to animals and the melting action of the sun’s rays.
  • If you want to make use of the outdoor freezer, make ice by filling milk cartons with water and freezing outside. Use the homemade “ice packs” in your refrigerator or freezer in the event of an outage.
  • Keep the freezer and refrigerator doors closed. If the power is off for a limited time, you can safely refreeze food that has ice crystals.

Q: We experienced flooding with contaminated water. Can I clean up the sealed food containers in my basement?

  • Some containers may appear “air-tight;” however, screw-cap containers, snap lids and cans with pull-tops may allow contaminants to seep into the container. Discard these foods.
  • To salvage metal cans, remove the labels, wash the cans with hot, soapy water and rinse with potable (drinkable) water. Sanitize the cans by immersing in boiling water for two minutes or immerse for 15 minutes in a sanitizing solution (see previous).

For information about coping with disasters, visit the NDSU Extension Service Web site at www.ag.ndsu.edu/disaster/.

Try this quick and easy recipe, which features foods that might be in your pantry.

Sweet Potatoes in Applesauce

1 (15.5-ounce) can sweet potatoes, drained

1/4 tsp. salt

1 c. applesauce

1/4 c. brown sugar, packed

1 Tbsp. butter or margarine

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 F. Place sweet potatoes in 1-quart casserole. Sprinkle with salt. Spoon applesauce over potatoes. Sprinkle with sugar and nutmeg. Dot with butter. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 160 calories, 36 grams (g) of carbohydrate, 2 g of fat and 3 g of fiber.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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