November 28th, 2006

How Long Until You Starve?


Mr. Yankee on has a post titled “How Long Until You Starve?“. It’s quite an interesting read and a question we all should ponder in light of any number of potential natural disasters or other types of emergencies which might spring upon us as a proverbial thief in the night.

A few of the important parts:

How long would you survive if you could never buy groceries again? Now consider how much worse that scenario would be if everyone you know was faced with the same question.

Stop and think about this for a minute, and you’ll realize just how precious a year’s supply can be. If all grocery stories shut down, how long could you and your family survive with your current provisions? A month? A week? I hope you answered a year! 🙂

But the question goes further. If everybody was unable to purchase more food, what would happen? Your supply might be logarithmically dimished as people come to you, “the prepared one”, for aid. When your neighbor is without food and his children are complaining of hunger, what do you do? Do you selfishly protect your stash, refusing to help? I don’t think so. I think we’d help. I think we’d give what we have to aid others. And so my year supply might quickly turn into a three week supply…

The food distribution system in industrialized nations has a complexity which baffles the mind. Thousands of suppliers coordinate with thousands of distributors to send food to millions of retailers for billions of consumers. But is there enough redundancy in the system to ensure the continued viability of commercially delivered food to your table? What if that incredibly complex system bottlenecked or crashed?

As the old axiom goes, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”. What happens when this complex process hits a snag? What if the freeways aren’t accessible? What happens if truckers go on strike? What happens if some funky avian flu contaminates a large percentage of a store’s goods? Any number of things can happen, and with little to no redundancy in the system, it can break at any time. Are we so quick to rely on such a shoddy system? (Then again, with so many people using Windows, I guess the answer to that rhetorical question is a resounding yes… :))

The food must be produced. It must be moved from the farm to the retailer (often involving several middlemen including turning raw wheat into boxed cereal etc.). And ownership must be transferred to you.

In response to the topic of food production, Pres. Marion G. Romney said in 1975:

We will see the day when we live on what we produce.

Ezra Taft Benson, in 1980 said:

From the standpoint of food production, storage, handling, and the Lord’s counsel, wheat should have high priority. “There is more salvation and security in wheat,” said Orson Hyde years ago, “than in all the political schemes of the world” (in Journal of Discourses, 2:207). Water, of course, is essential. Other basics could include honey or sugar, legumes, milk products or substitutes, and salt or its equivalent. The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah.

…and Brigham Young said:

The time will come that gold will hold no comparison in value to a bushel of wheat.

When the article talks about our food exchanging so many hands before it gets to our kitchen, I wonder with what ease that chain can be broken. With the above quotes, I am reminded of the importance of producing our own food, to be self-reliant and fully prepared. Given that I live in a condo, this will be more difficult for me since I’ll have to grow things in pots or something like that, but it’s something I want to look into. We need to be ready to produce our own food, in the event of a disaster or emergency. Should that time come, would you have a garden ready, or know how to properly start and care for one?

All these factors apply not only to domestically produced food, but to imported food as well. In addition, the importation may be negatively influenced by war, economic, and other political factors. The effect of scarce resources and impaired distribution systems for food gave rise to the need for ration cards and “victory gardens” to combat hunger in the 1940s.

This statement once again shows the fragility of the economic chain that supports our nation’s food distribution. I’m not sure how much of our food products are imported vs. domestically grown (anybody know?), but either way we seem to be placing a lot of faith in the current system if we’re not preparing for its possible dissolution.

Some very intelligent people warn of an economic collapse on the scale of the Great Depression or worse. Hyper inflation is a reality in third world nations. It has happened in civilized and developed Europe several times in the last century as well. What if your paycheck loses 90% of its buying power in a month’s time? What if the markets lose faith in the imaginary value of currency? Such things have happened repeatedly in the past. If the store shelves are full but a can of soup costs $100, how long can you eat?

I hope it’s no surprise to you, the reader, that the purchasing power of the dollar has been plummeting to its demise for some time now. The US dollar has lost 95% of its purchasing power over the last century. Hyperinflation has happened in several other countries—is ours soon to join them (again)?

What happens when there is an economic collapse and your savings in the bank is wiped out (since banks can’t come anywhere close to matching all savings and loans with hard money)? Say goodbye to your 401K. Such savings are merely numbers in a bank ledger, where clerks create money out of thin air for any given transaction. If there is such an economic collapse, and your money becomes as useful as toilet paper, what will you do? Will you barter? With what? With whom? For what?

These are questions we all need to ponder. “What if”—those two premonitory words—can lead the speculative mind to map out a myriad of scenarios that might possibly come to fruition. In such scenarios, how do you fare? How long until you starve?

…if ye are prepared ye shall not fear (D&C 38:30)

5 Responses to “How Long Until You Starve?”

  1. Lucia
    November 28, 2006 at 3:10 pm #

    What if one year supply is not enough?

  2. Connor
    November 28, 2006 at 3:34 pm #

    What if one year supply is not enough?

    I think that the counsel relating to a year’s supply is a minimum suggestion. In 1975, Bishop Victor L. Brown said:

    Home production and storage: The prepared family has sufficient stores to take care of basic needs for a minimum of one year. Further, they are, where possible, actively involved in the growing, canning, and sewing, and production of their year’s supply.

    As I indicate in my post, I think it’s quite likely that our supplies will rapidly diminish as we either 1) share them openly with those who didn’t prepare or 2) pool them into a larger supply (such as the Church’s) when congregated together with other persons.

    When I feel that I have enough supplies to last a year (I’m getting there!) I’m not going to stop. I will feel more comfortable with a two or three year supply. Granted, such supplies are easier to acquire and maintain when you’re a single person like myself, but the counsel is the same for all.

  3. David Brosnahan
    November 28, 2006 at 4:18 pm #

    Avian Flu is still a threat. There will be disruptions in the global economy for at least 6 months until an effective vaccine can be produced and distributed.

    One reason for the year supply is to have extra to share with neighbors. Our neighbors may consider the gospel for the first time.

    read for some great quotes by LDS leadership on this issue.

  4. Naiah Earhart
    November 29, 2006 at 9:58 am #

    Oooo, this pricks my conscience. (I want to be done!) Michelle has been giving me “food storage 101” lately, including recipes and what to get and how to use it and all that good stuff. Our family is getting there!

  5. waris
    April 3, 2009 at 9:13 pm #

    Know which plants nearby are edible. Keep sproutable grains like mungbeans and wheat.Grow aloe vera plants. The polysaccharides in it are a concentrated food source.Keep a water filter like Berkey that can make almost any water drinkable.Nuts, Brown sugar and honey are also excellent survival foods.

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