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Food storage important to more than Mormons

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Two checks were lost in the mail, and Courtney Havenwood was starting to panic.

"When I opened the cabinets and they were bare, it scared me," said Havenwood, a wife and mother of two from Austin, Texas. "Even though I knew money was coming, it freaked me out. So (my husband and I) decided as soon as he got paid, we'd invest in food storage."

The money eventually arrived, and the Havenwoods followed through with their decision.

Havenwood wasn't sure where to begin, so she started with some research. Internet searches led her to the blog "Food Storage Made Easy," operated by Mormon sisters-in-law Julie Weiss and Jodi Moore. Havenwood said she used the blog until she felt confident in her own knowledge.

In an email, she summarized her experience: "I got to researching, found a bunch of helpful LDS websites, visited my local bishop's warehouse ... and now we are stocked!"

What sets Havenwood apart from many others who have had similar experiences is, though she is familiar with Mormonism, she isn't a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She's Jewish, and part of the ever-increasing population of food storage practitioners who get into preparedness for reasons other than LDS Church counsel.

However, it's often Latter-day Saints who are able to provide help and guidance to those who are taking the first steps toward building a food storage. Latter-day Saints tend to know a little about the subject, as they've been receiving counsel from their church leaders for years to have a food storage supply.

In his general conference address “Prepare Ye,” delivered in 1973, the late prophet President Ezra Taft Benson said, "The revelation to store food may be as essential to our temporal salvation today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah."

The current LDS Church-distributed pamphlet “All Is Safely Gathered In” contains a message from the First Presidency, encouraging "church members worldwide to prepare for adversity in life by having a basic supply of food and water and some money in savings."

That may explain why preparedness has a strong foothold in Utah, where Latter-day Saints made up about 60 percent of the population. Food storage and emergency preparedness businesses such as Emergency Essentials, Shelf Reliance and The Ready Store are also based in Utah.

Dean Hale and Don Pectol, senior consultants at Emergency Essentials, noted an increase in the number of people buying food storage, and not just within Utah.

"We're finding many parts of the country are starting to be as interested in building up food storage as people locally have been doing for years and years," Hale said. "In the olden days, it was just Latter-day Saints or survivalists in Montana building cement bunkers in a hillside and that was it, but nowadays there are a lot more people paying attention."

Pectol agreed that the trend is spreading, and noted that being prepared indicates wisdom.

"We could have a trucker’s strike, we could have an earthquake, and the list goes on," Pectol said. "We have even had a tornado in downtown Salt Lake City in recent years. So when something like that happens, you say, 'Wow, anything can happen,' and that's the truth, anything can happen."

Statistics indicate that emergencies that may call for food storage have been on the rise.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2011 had the highest ever total of major disaster, emergency and fire management assistance declarations.

It's the predictability of the unpredictable that caused Maryland resident Jessica Yurkiewicz to begin her food storage. Yurkiewicz, who lives outside of Baltimore, works as an investigator at a law firm and identified herself religiously as a "spiritualist." She started her food storage about two-and-a-half years ago.

"It really started with emergency preparedness. I help manage the family farm, so whenever the power goes out in winter everything goes out, including the farm well," she said. She estimated that the power there goes out at least 2 to 3 times per winter, for 3 to 5 days at a time. "Hauling buckets from the stream is not pleasant in minus-degree weather, so I started thinking about it there and it kind of spread."

Yurkiewicz took an approach similar to Havenwood's.

"I read everything that I could get my hands on, because I knew that so many people made mistakes; you don't eat what you get, you get too much, you spend money on what isn't good," she said. "I researched everything. The Mormon websites, all of them were fantastic. The Mormon mothers blog group really got me excited about everything."

Weiss, an author of the blog "Food Storage Made Easy," was surprised at how many of her readers weren't LDS. The discovery came when she and Moore created a Facebook page for their blog, which today has almost 13,000 fans.

"Before we had it, we assumed that anyone that read our blog was surely LDS," Weiss said. "But then we got on Facebook and used it like a regular person, and noticed a lot of people — just little clues they weren't LDS, like having their morning coffee stored or like going to Mass. "

Weiss identified many reasons for storing food besides religious teachings.

"Health reasons, economy, disasters . . . When there was the swine flu and people were afraid to leave their houses, or you have a baby and don't want to go grocery shopping because you're so busy. Nobody's immune to job loss, and nobody's immune to potential crisis," she said.

Anthony Trupiano, who heads an insurance company out of Jacksonville, Fla., said he sleeps better at night knowing his family is prepared with a food storage that could sustain them for three years.

"I think it's part of being a responsible citizen, that if there's a crisis you don’t have to be in that mob running down to the store, stripping everything off the shelves," said Trupiano, who also isn't a member of the LDS Church.

Though disasters that could call for food storage are infrequent, it can be beneficial to everyday life.

"We're a lot healthier now that I think about what we're eating. And I share, of course, everything with the family," Yurkiewicz said. "Whenever the power goes out, I load everything in my jeep and we have a little cookout."

Havenwood also identified health benefits and said her family has seen a "tremendous" financial difference.

"The month we started tracking it, we spent 33 percent less on groceries, yet had more food in the house," she said. "I feel like because we have everything on hand, I tend to make rather than buy things."

The preparedness trend has definitely been picking up, Weiss said, regardless of whether or not a person is LDS.

"I don't know if it's a fad, if it will go away, or if it will stick around, but it's definitely grown," she said.

For Havenwood, it's sticking around.

"I truly, deeply believe in the importance of prepping," she blogged. "It makes good financial sense, and it provides supplies for my family in case of disaster. Prepping is a perfect outlet . . . for my deep-seated desire to make my home a self-contained sanctuary for those I love."

Email: rbrutsch@desnews.com