Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 4: Nutrition and Food Service

4.9 Food Safety

4.9.0 Supply of Food and Water for Disasters

 Content in the STANDARD was modified on 05/21/2019.

Disaster Preparedness
A minimum 3-day supply of nonperishable food and 1 gallon of water per person per day for 3 days should be kept in stock for each child and staff member.1,2 For programs with 100 children, this would mean 300 gallons of water and approximately 1,000 meals. Programs should consider appropriate and accessible storage for a large quantity of supplies.

For early care and education programs in areas at risk for hurricanes and other severe disasters, an additional 2-day supply (ie, supply for 5 days total) of nonperishable food and water may be needed. A written log detailing the expiration dates, as well as the amount and type of food, should be kept by early care and education staff and reviewed on a quarterly basis. Caregivers/teachers should review log/expiration dates on a quarterly basis; food and water supplies should be consumed and/or replaced from the emergency supplies to ensure usage before expiration.

Early care and education programs should accommodate children with special health care needs who require specialized diets. Appropriate, nonperishable food items should be kept and made available for these children in the event of a disaster.3

Disaster Response and Recovery

Early care and education programs should assess the emergency food supply and food preparation areas/equipment annually and after a disaster.

Early care and education staff should avoid serving food and beverages under the following circumstances4,5:

  • Food or beverages that have been exposed to floodwater or chemical agents. If unsure, throw them away.
  • Dispose of wooden cutting boards, bottle nipples, and pacifiers if they have been contaminated with floodwater, as they are difficult to properly clean.
  • Dispose of perishable foods, such as meat and eggs, that have been stored in temperatures above 40°F for longer than 2 hours. Foods stored at 40°F or below can be refrozen or cooked.
  • Food that is packed in plastic, paper, cardboard, cloth, or similar containers that have been water damaged.
  • Food that is stored in containers that cannot be disinfected. This would include foods in containers with screw caps, snap lids, crimped caps (soda bottles), twist caps, or flip tops, as well as home canned foods.

Water Safety

If there is any chance that tap water has been contaminated during a disaster, don’t use it. Listen to updates from emergency officials on the state of your community’s water supply and for instructions to boil tap water before use (to stay abreast of such updates, make sure your stockpile includes a battery-operated radio). Do not attempt to drink water you believe has been contaminated with fuel or toxic chemicals, as boiling and other disinfectants will not work to purify it.5


If bottled water is not available, boiling water is the best way to purify drinking supplies and kill disease-carrying bacteria, viruses, and parasites.5 If the water is cloudy, first filter it through a clean paper towel, cloth, or coffee filter before boiling. 6 Bring your water to a boil and allow it to boil for at least 1 minute.7 Store your boiled water in clean containers with tight lids.

If boiling your water is not an option, you can also use unscented household chlorine bleach, iodine, or chlorine dioxide tablets. Keep in mind that while such methods are effective at killing harmful bacteria and viruses, only chlorine dioxide tablets and boiling will kill disease-carrying parasites. To purify your water using unscented household chlorine bleach, add one-eighth of a teaspoon for every gallon of clear water and one-fourth of a teaspoon for every gallon of cloudy water. Stir the water and let it sit for 30 minutes before using it. To use iodine or chlorine dioxide tablets, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Early care and education staff should remove the labels of undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans or retort pouches and thoroughly wash, rinse, and disinfect the cans. Lastly, relabel containers that had the labels removed, including the expiration date, with a permanent marker.3


It may take 3 days or longer for nutrition assistance and food packages to arrive after a disaster strikes. Due to possible widespread damage, transportation disruptions, and supply shortages, it may not be possible for supplies to be brought into disaster locations until the following conditions are met:

     a) Efforts to rescue/save lives are completed.

     b) Needs of communities/populations are assessed.

Preparing for disasters by keeping an emergency supply of food and water can prolong the health of children and staff in disaster-impacted areas.8

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Medical Emergency Procedures Care Plan for Children with Special Health Care Needs Written Nutrition Plan Care for Children with Food Allergies Testing of Drinking Water Not From Public System Emergency Safe Drinking Water and Bottled Water First Aid and Emergency Supplies
  1. Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Department of Homeland Security. Emergency supply list. Accessed December 20, 2018

  2. Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Department of Homeland Security. Water. Ready website. Accessed December 20, 2018

  3. Singh SN. Nutrition in emergencies: issues involved in ensuring proper nutrition in post-chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear disaster. J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2010;2(3):248–252

  4. Wolfram T. Food safety in the home after a hurricane and flooding. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Eat Right website. Published September 10, 2018. Accessed December 20, 2018

  5. American Public Health Association. Keeping food and water safe in an emergency. Accessed December 20, 2018

  6. Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Department of Homeland Security. Fact sheet: How to make your water safe to drink. Accessed May 2, 2019

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Making water safe in an emergency. Updated September 21, 2017. Accessed May 2, 2019

  8. Pradhan PM, Dhital R, Subhani H. Nutrition interventions for children aged less than 5 years following natural disasters: a systematic review. BMJ Open. 2016;6(9):e011238


 Content in the STANDARD was modified on 05/21/2019.