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Food Storage for Y2K: Don’t Get Carried Away

PULLMAN, Wash. —  Val Hillers, Washington State University Cooperative extension food specialist, is taking issue with self-styled experts who are recommending that people stockpile a year’s-worth of food in advance of  the year 2,000.

“Computer glitches will not result in major crop failures or in failures of cows to give milk,” Hillers said.  “Food production will still happen.  Ways will be devised to get food to people who want it and need it.”

Since summer, Washington State University Cooperative Extension faculty across the state have experienced an upswing in questions about food and water storage.

“Unless there’s a flood or power outage, we normally get nine or ten calls a year on food or water storage,” said Theo Thomas, WSU Yakima county extension educator. “In October we were getting nine or ten calls by noon each day.

“By the time we caught on and started asking questions, we learned that the calls were from people who had attended conferences or meetings on preparing for the ‘disaster’ that would happen on Jan.1, 2000.”

Her experience is not unique.  In San Juan County, calls about food and water storage have risen about 50 percent over last year, according to Susan Herrera, office manager of the extension office in Friday Harbor.  “The majority seem to be motivated by Y2K.”

“While it’s always wise to have enough food on hand to sustain your family through natural disasters, I don’t believe there will be a major disruption in the food supply in the year 2000,” Hillers said.  “Massive food storage is expensive and it’s likely a lot of it will go to waste.  And if you really think about it, a year’s supply of food is a very expensive recommendation.”

She cited a Utah State University study of food storage programs in that state to prove her point.  Forty-five percent of the families sampled in November had enough food on hand to last a year.  Re-sampled in May, those that still did, had a year’s supply because they never used food in their storage systems.  “Many believed that food would last forever,” Hillers said.

“That suggests that these people who are buying a year’s supply are going to have the same kind of situation 10 years from now trying to figure out what to do with this old food.  They will call us and ask us if it is still good enough to give to the food bank.”

Elaine Mir, Spokane County Cooperative Extension, voiced another concern about people stocking up for the millennium:  “A lot of people are canning meat , something most of them haven’t done before or haven’t done in a long time.  It’s important to use an up-to-date pressure canning method.”

She said most county extension offices have access to that information.

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