Study reveals cheapest way to survive an emergency

By Kieran Campbell

The New Zealand Medical Journal, used a mathematical technique to assess foods by price and nutrition. Photo / Thinkstock
The New Zealand Medical Journal, used a mathematical technique to assess foods by price and nutrition. Photo / Thinkstock

Food stored for an emergency can meet all daily energy requirements for as little as $2.22 a day, a new study says.

The University of Otago has examined the cheapest ways to survive while still consuming your required daily nutrients eating only stored foods in the event of an emergency, such as an earthquake.

The cheapest combination of foods to meet the necessary energy needs were flour, rice, pasta, vegetable oil, whole grain oats, sugar and peanut butter.

The research, which is published in the latest issue of New Zealand Medical Journal, used a mathematical technique to assess foods by price and nutrition.

Public health researcher Associate Professor Nick Wilson said the study aimed to help disaster preparations and civil defence.

"New Zealand is a country subject to a wide range of natural disasters and some disasters such as storms and floods may be becoming more common with climate change," Professor Wilson said.

"There is also evidence that some families run very low on stored food or make no disaster preparations at all and this research may encourage people to be better prepared because of the very low cost."

The research also looked at the cost of a collection of foods which did not require cooking, such as food that could be eaten directly from a can or after soaking.

The cost of these foods was slightly higher at $3.67 a day to provide enough energy for one man.

The specific foods were whole grain oats, vegetable oil, dried peas (which need sprouting), breakfast biscuits (like Weetbix), sugar, peanut butter, sultanas and peanuts.

A further analysis looked at foods that would meet all nutritional recommendations, which cost $7.10 per day.

"In a disaster situation getting the perfect amounts of vitamins and minerals every day is of course not a priority," study co-author Mary-Ann Carter said.

"Nevertheless, we still studied this as it's what some people might still wish to plan for, as well as providing more variety."

The foods in that category were wholemeal flour, dried peas (which need sprouting or cooking), sardines (canned), peanut butter, sugar, tomatoes (canned), tomato sauce, peaches (canned), apricots (canned) and fruit salad (canned).

Finally, the study looked at the cost with the assumption of perfect storage conditions and no food spoilage, "as might be expected by a government agency doing food storage".

The cost was $1.93 a day.

"Overall we were surprised at how low these food costs were and so it seems that storing the recommended three days per person is likely to be very feasible for nearly all families," Ms Carter said.

"But sometimes it is not possible for people with damaged homes to access their food stores and so the foods we identified could also be the cheapest ones for civil defence authorities or the army to supply in a disaster situation."

Stored food needed for all daily energy requirements

- Flour
- Rice
- Pasta
- Vegetable oil
- Whole grain oats
- Sugar
- Peanut butter

Cost: $2.22 a day

- APNZ

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