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Questions of general interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy

How can we obey the counsel of Church leaders to store food if we face limitations related to climate and lack of finances?

Gordon K. Bischoff, bishop of the Orangevale Ward, Citrus Heights California Stake.

In counseling Latter-day Saints to store food, Church leaders have never laid down an exact formula for what to store. No single formula is adequate because what to store, how much to store, and how to store depend on a number of factors, including customs, climate, preferences, and resources.

As Barbara B. Smith, former Relief Society general president, once said, “Fresh taro or sweet potato, and live pigs, chickens, or fish might be considered as a supply in some areas of the world where it is difficult to store food” (“‘She Is Not Afraid of the Snow for Her Household,’” Ensign, Nov. 1976, 121).

When resources, climate, or culture make food storage difficult, we may need to adapt in order to emphasize home production or “live storage” in the form of livestock. We may need to make substitutions for suggested storage items, or we may need to develop alternative ways of storing food. The principles Church leaders have given regarding preparation and food storage—and emphasized in Church publications such as Essentials of Home Production and Storage (manual, 1978, item no. 32288) and Providing in the Lord’s Way (manual, 1991, item no. 32296)—can be adapted to most areas of the world.

For example, while perishable products like powdered milk may have a short shelf life in warmer areas, “tropical and semitropical climates offer opportunities not available in the temperate zones,” according to an article prepared by Church Welfare Services and the Ezra Taft Benson Agriculture and Food Institute at Brigham Young University. “In the tropics, year-round gardens with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are possible. The cereal grains can be replaced by taro, manioca, or sweet potatoes, all of which can be left unharvested for a considerable length of time and can thus be stored in the ground. Powdered milk can be replaced by fish, poultry, or hogs” (“The Most Frequently Asked Questions about Home Production and Storage,” Ensign, Aug. 1977, 24).

Colder climates and short growing seasons may limit our ability to produce food, but cool temperatures can prolong the shelf life of some stored items. On the other hand, food storage may be more expensive and difficult to obtain in areas of extreme cold. In areas where humidity is high, measures must be taken to assure that stored goods, especially dried foods, are kept dry. The key is adapting, as best as circumstances dictate, the counsel the Lord has given through his servants.

President Ezra Taft Benson encouraged Church members to gather their food storage without going into debt. “Plan to build up your food supply just as you would a savings account. Save a little for storage each paycheck. Can or bottle fruit and vegetables from your gardens and orchards. Learn how to preserve food through drying and possibly freezing. Make your storage a part of your budget. … If you are saving and planning for a second car or a TV set or some item which merely adds to your comfort or pleasure, you may need to change your priorities” (“Prepare for the Days of Tribulation,” Ensign, Nov. 1980, 33).

Bishop Vaughn J. Featherstone, Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric and now of the Seventy, offered the following additional suggestions to help members budget for food storage (see “Food Storage,” Ensign, May 1976, 117):

  • Earmark a portion of your Christmas expenditures for food storage.

  • Mend old clothes and make your present wardrobe last a little longer; use the savings for food storage.

  • Reduce recreation expenditures.

  • Postpone a vacation.

  • Alter family priorities so that food storage takes precedence over luxury items such as boats, snowmobiles, campers, and so on.

  • Reduce grocery bills by buying in bulk and by obtaining protein from sources less expensive than meat.

“For the righteous the gospel provides a warning before a calamity, a program for the crises, a refuge for each disaster,” said Elder Ezra Taft Benson (“Prepare Ye,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 69). “The Lord has warned us of famines, but the righteous will have listened to prophets and stored at least a year’s supply of survival food.”

Regardless of where we live or our financial situation, the path to preparation will open before us as we comply with the counsel of the prophets and go forward as means and circumstances permit.