Sitting on a shelf gathering dust

Food storage is a good example of the divide between liberal and conservative schools of thought. Not all LDS believe in keeping a three months’ supply of food, of course. While it’s been discussed as recently as 2007, I think food storage was always a “soft” commandment. Like journaling and genealogy, some LDS keep a three month supply and some don’t.

A person can be considered a faithful LDS and not have shelves full of canned goods and drinking water. It’s not part of the temple recommend interview (that I know of).

For the more conservative, the thought is that you take care of yourself first. And food storage makes sense with that – the idea is that you are preparing for a disastrous event. When I remember hearing about this growing up, it was really an “end of days” thing. We never knew when we were going to have to build handcarts to walk to Missouri.

And with various hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and volcanoes, it does make sense to be reasonably prepared. Having three months of wheat may not be helpful in a natural disaster, but canned tuna might.

From a different perspective, it is a difficult time of year to walk past shelves and shelves of canned food for one person or family. People are hungry throughout the year, but awareness is heightened during the winter. My evidence is anecdotal, but many food banks have been stressed to serve everyone in need. And people have been suffering (particularly here in the U.S.) for the past couple of years.

As an aside, I have read an unsubstantiated rumor that some missionaries have been getting their food from non LDS food banks. Honestly, the rumor doesn’t surprise me, if it is true. If U.S. missionaries do receive a $4 food stipend per day (a number I’ve heard quoted in the past), I challenge all MSP readers to try and live on that without using resources like food banks. While it’s true that missionaries may be able to have some meals in members’ homes, even with making all one’s food from scratch; $4 per day ($28 per week) is simply not a lot. Certainly not for extras like fruits and vegetables. It may be the case that missionaries get food from the bishop’s pantry. I don’t know, and things may have changed in the past few years.

So it’s difficult to have this conversation because of the opposing views. One side wants to encourage self-reliance. The other wants to prevent waste. It might leave a person with a conundrum.

If a person has an extra dollar to spend, should they spend it on canned food storage for themselves to sit on a shelf or donate that dollar (or food) to people who could use it right now? I would suggest, if one really needs to purchase the extra canned food to prepare for the worst, to donate one can for every saved can.

I can’t help but see it as wasteful to allow food to sit on shelves. Food that might go bad some day – and never be used? Some people may get into extensive food rotating schemes. I can’t say.

It’s simply hard for me to understand this particular policy. Some preparation makes sense. But I think that this is one case where people could go overboard. And one example of disagreement among faithful LDS members.

18 thoughts on “Sitting on a shelf gathering dust

  1. As for it not being part of the temple recommend interview, yeah, not yet. But in my last Utah ward, the Bishop tried to get the ward council to pair up and go around the ward to inspect everyone’s food storage, “because the SP wants to know.” It took the entire council to convince him, not that it was a bad idea, but that nobody was going to help him do it.

  2. Why just the ‘donate’ challenge just to those that decide to spend their resources on food storage? Some people decide, for a variety of reasons, to obtain food storage rather than spend money on a daily coffee, at the movie house, or a variety of other hobbies, entertainments, and indulgences. Shouldn’t those that ‘waste’ money also be challenged?

  3. Three months? You are supposed to have a year’s food supply.

    A year long food supply makes sense if you have been socialized during the great depression. Since the new deal, it is a lot less pertinent, especially, if you live in western Europe.

    Having said that, when my nevermo grandfather retired and sold his farm to the Lutheran church, he bunkered three years worth of coal because, God help him, he was not going to freeze again, World War III or not.

    To that end, my grandfather also had a heating system that could be fired with oil and coal in his retirement home.

  4. The church’s official website now talks about a three-month supply and a “longer-term supply.” (I’m sure there are still plenty of Mormons around who think anything less than a year is for the less righteous though.)

  5. ff42 makes a good point — food storage is no more frivolous or wasteful than plenty of other personal indulgences. For example, in my basement, I don’t have cans of food, but I do have something like 40 bottles of various wines collected there, and I’m not going to pretend like that’s somehow more virtuous than Mormon-style food storage. 😉

    That said, you’re absolutely right that we should be spending more on giving to the poor. One advantage to food storage (as a home indulgence) is that you have to rotate it. You can rotate some of your food storage this holiday season by donating it to a food bank.

  6. Back in the day, there was a really cool shelf design in the Ensign. Diagonal shoots allowed you to pick up cans at the front of the self while you reloaded it from the back. That way, rotating storage was really simple.

    I would still like to have a couple of those shelves.

  7. You are supposed to have a years food supply.

    You’re supposed to have a two-year’s supply of food, dog food (can’t let your pets go hungry just ’cause you lost your job), and other necessities like toilet paper, firewood, power tools, and old car batteries so you can run the power tools if there’s no electricity.

    Also a lifetime supply of wheat and something to grind it with.

    And as much ammo as you can stockpile wouldn’t hurt either, I’ve been told.

  8. With your gas-powered generator. Which means you need a two-year supply of gas.

    I never quite understood it either, but my dad had it all worked out.

  9. I don’t think food storage is somehow immoral as long as it’s coupled with also giving to those of us in need.

    The real moral dilemma comes during the zombie apocalypse when the graves are opened and the dead rise again. Your unprepared neighbors ask to share your food. Do you share with the slackers?

  10. Do you share with the slackers?

    If they’re toting Utah’s soon-to-be-official state firearm, you probably should.

    The Browning 1911 would be in the same class as the seagull, the state bird; the Sego Lily, the state flower; and the Dutch oven, the state cooking pot. The question some have is whether a state gun is somehow different.

    And if they’re not, they were probably undeserving anyways.

  11. I think that the brethren have said several times that you are supposed to share your food storage with your neighbors. That’s probably one reason why the supply is supposed to be so big.

    At the same time, I know several people who said that they would defend their year supply at gun point during the apocalypse, especially, against the hordes from California.

  12. Thanks everyone. Yeah, you can’t really give ammo to a food pantry. Not sure about wine, however. 😉
    I think food storage is ok in moderation. I think, just like everything, a person can go overboard – losing sight of doing good for your fellow humans. Of course there are all sorts of other interests and hobbies that do this as well…I don’t see how stockpiling food can be seen as living what christ taught. Not that it’s my place to say what christ taught. I don’t see food storage as being in keeping with the new
    mainstream message.
    Not that it’s immoral or even wrong. It just doesn’t add up, to my mind. The obsessive two year supply, btw. Not something reasonable like a 72 hour kit.

  13. My parents are testing a new brand of canned Chili at their Christmas Eve party to see if my 5 other siblings and their children like it. (My family is Vegan and I will be providing a fresh pot of Chili for them.) If everyone likes it, my parents will buy a truckload and put it in their basement.

    My parents are convinced that someday the Muslims will attack and the whole family will be forced to hide in their basement. They also have water and bedding forover 40 people down there. They do not have any pet food, which is a over sight I must mention to them at their party.

    All of my siblings are all either slacker Mo’s or inactive and won’t buy their own food storage. They will however skip buying groceries for themselves and take some of this food storage home when ever they feel like spending their paychecks on clothes and electronic gadgets. They also treat my Father like he is their Bishop and drop off their bills. My parents never seem to catch onto this racket and I just don’t want to butt in.

    Even though I am an Ex-Mo they have huge bags of dried beans and various staples for my family, including my adult children and their families… Which they try to have me rotate by giving it to me and my husband alone to eat. Unfortunately we can’t keep up with their shopping habits and most of that food is degrading and turns into squirrel and bird food. Perhaps I should pretend to need more food and take it to the food bank instead of letting it sit there.

  14. Hmmm, where to start…As a person who does believe in homestorage and the necessity of it, let me give you some reasons as to why it’s important that have nothing to do with the apocalypse or any of the other horading/crazy people/mormon things I’ve read here.

    72 hour kits are a great place to start and if those who were in a disaster situation had one they could grab quickly on their way out the door, their lives would be at least a little easier for a few days. Even the governments reccomend them. With the rate at which we have seen areas, countries devastated by natural disasters and with the incredible amount of debt that most countries carry the day will come when there just won’t be any more money to give, so being able to help yourself and others isn’t such a bad idea.

    Now on a more day to day note…any idea how long it will take you to find a decent paying job in todays economy if you get fired, layed off, down sized? All of the financial guru’s are saying at least 8 months. So unless you’ve got all the money in the world locked away in a bank or stuffed under your matress, how long do you think it would take before you are either homeless or having to choose between paying your mortgage, keeping the heat and lights on and buying food? If you’ve got kids or even pets, how do you think it will feel to tell them there’s no more food in the pantry and if you don’t pay the mortgage you’ll all be sleeping in your car in the freezing winter cold? How fun would that be? If you had a year supply of food in your basement or wherever, guess what? That would be one less expense you have to worry about and you wouldn’t starve. You would be able to take whatever money you have managed to save or make doing odd jobs or working at Macdonalds to just pay the mortgage or the rent and keep the utilities on. I’m sure you don’t think that could ever happen to you but guess what, it can, and it’s happening all over the place every single day. It happened to me and thankfully I had homestorage.

    The reason I had home storage is because as a child I lived it with my parents. My dad had cancer and for a good chunk of the 7 years he struggled through that, he couldn’t work because he was too sick. My mom worked part time when she could, us kids worked when we could. We lived on that crazy home storage that those nutty mormons think is important to have. We grew a garden, we canned and preserved, bought something extra when we had a extra dollar or two and put it in the pantry. If you think this can’t happen to you…your crazy…and with the way insurance companies don’t provide coverage or take months to years to pay out, you can be in trouble really damn fast. Look at all the families in the USA who have no insurance at all, and if they lose their main provider for the family what happens to them?

    In the past couple of years, because of our homestorage, my husband and I have been able to keep us afloat and have been able to help 3 other single moms with children who have no support from their exes. They have varrying degrees of employment ability and have been with out food and money on several occasions. Guess what? now that they know how to do homestorage, to buy something extra when they grocery shop even if it’s just a can of soup, that is one more meal they can feed their chidren – they do it! And guess what else? They aren’t crazy mormons! They aren’t mormons at all!

    Guess what else? Me and my crazy hoarding husband have also started stockpiling things that can be given as presents at Christmas and other times like birthdays because last year at Christmas we found out about 5 families who had nothing, no food, no money, no presents for the children, no medicine for their sick babies, nothing. Between us and a few other crazy hoarding people we were able to completely provide for all of them, months worth of food to help them get one their feet. One less thing to buy means one more dollar to keep the bills paid. This year our goal was to help 10 families, it grew to be 13. With the way things are going in this freaking world, I am guessing we should try for 20 families at least next year in addition to who all needs help during the year.

    As for the food on the shelf being a waste and could be donated to food banks etc, yes it could, but here’s the thing if the can, or what have you passes the suggested expiry date, even though it is perfectly fine and safe to eat, the food banks can not legally give it out. So if you go rushing to the store and buy a bunch of stuff on sale and take it down to the local food bank, if it is at the expiry date or close to it, the food bank will haul it off to the local landfill. As for special times of year, things like santa’s anonymous etc have quotas, they have their goals, they gather food toys etc, but once they have reached their quota, if you didn’t get your family on the list, you don’t get helped, so many families fall through the cracks…hmmm, a little homestorage sure could make a difference.

    It’s really not all about apocalypse, or major disaster, it’s about not having the ability to survive very difficult times. It wasn’t too long ago when our grandparents etc kept food storage, cuz you didn’t know if you were going to be able to get out of your snowed in street to a store or off the farm for weeks or months at a time in the winter. Lots of farm folk still store food for that exact reason. I am sure none of you will lose your jobs, or have any other financially threatening situations arise, but just in case you might want to get off your high and superior horses and show a little respect to the people around you who do have homestorage and just may be the ones to save your pathetic butts.

  15. Thanks celti for your comment and welcome. I agree with you about 72 hour kits.

    I’m glad that you’ve been able to use the surplus food yourself and able to help those less fortunate. That’s how the system should work.

    I would like to agree to disagree about this issue, however. I don’t see all people as willing to donate their food to others. I don’t see everyone rotating. But that’s my opinion and my observations, and others may see differently. I think it’s good to discuss goals and how it works, no matter what your background/faith. In the end, as others have pointed out, it’s a disagreement about time and resources.

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