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FAQ for Meals for All

Emergencies and Healthcare Services

Why are healthcare facilities required to store emergency food?

Emergencies and disasters are beyond your control.  Preparedness in advance is expected by those we serve and the regulatory agencies. Having a shelf-stable food reserve such as Meals for All eliminates the worry of an uncertain future. It is “Peace of Mind”. Your facility may need to survive on its own after a natural or man-made disaster.

This means having your own food, water, and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least three to seven days. Local officials and relief workers will try to be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone immediately.

You could get help in hours, or it might take days. Basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment, and telephones may be cut off for days, or even a week or longer. Or, you may have to evacuate at a moment’s notice and take essentials with you. You probably will not have the opportunity to shop or search for the supplies you need.

What types of food shortages might happen?

There are many factors that can cause food shortages here in the United States and around the world. Major concerns over the global economic situation and terrorism (biological or even small nuclear weapons could be set off on our soil). Extreme weather conditions: droughts, flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, or earthquakes happen somewhere every year.

Grocery stores completely restock their shelves every 2-3 days. Think what would happen if the distribution sources were disrupted. In the event that something does happen, you’ll be prepared to weather the storm. Facilities caring for the vulnerable population in a healthcare facility must be able to sustain themselves for several days independent of outside resources.

How many days should we prepare for with the Meals for All plan?

The choice will depend on the length of time you desire the Meals for All system to sustain your facility independent of outside resources. State regulations and accreditation standards will usually have a minimum requirement, but you should also evaluate your location, vulnerability of roads or infrastructure and types of emergencies or disaster possibilities.

What if we need our Meals for All food quicker due to an emergency?

The staff at Meals for All will do everything possible to assist you in your time of need. Call our offices during business hours to inquire about availability and additional charges for overnight shipping.

What is the cost comparison of Meals for All to traditional emergency food plans?

Typical emergency food supply programs cost nearly $3600 for enough food to serve 100 people three meals for three days. The foods consist mostly of convenience ready to heat foods which are not typical menu items in most facilities. This food has a short shelf life and must be rotated every six months to maintain freshness.   

Meals for All  food is approximately 90% less than what would be spent for replacing these groceries in a ten year period.

 

Food Products

Are the Meals for All  food products fully cooked?

Yes! All our foods are fully cooked before dehydrating or freeze drying. By adding hot or cold water to reconstitute, they are just like fresh cooked foods, and there is no cooking required.

Why do the Meals for All  menus look a lot like our everyday facility menus?

Our menus and meals incorporate easily recognizable and familiar foods with common ingredients so that residents or patients receive as typical of a food service as possible. In an emergency or disaster, familiar foods help to ensure peace of mind for both care givers and recipients while assuring a balanced, well-accepted meal and the nourishment to sustain lives.

How do the Meals for All  products taste?

Our recipes have been specially prepared and tested to provide a great dining experience. We use not only high quality ingredients, but the same spices and herbs you use in your facility recipes. When reconstituted, you will be amazed at how great our foods taste! Bon appetite!

Are the Meals for All  products free of preservatives?

Yes! Our foods are Preservative-Free! There are no bisulfites or metabisulfites in any Meals for All foods.

Are Meals for All  products organic?

Unfortunately, no. Due to restrictive food labeling requirements, we presently cannot claim to carry organic products.

What ingredients are used for the Meals for All ?

Yes, Meals for All recipes are developed using real USDA inspected beef and poultry. In fact, on our can label front panel you will see the USDA indicia assuring you of safe and wholesome foods. Beef products are hormone-free.

Our food packaging plant is inspected daily by a U.S.D.A. resident inspector and complies with strict standards for wholesomeness and cleanliness. Federal inspection enables the manufacturer to offer a complete line of real poultry and beef. We do not use flavored TVP as a meat substitute --- you get the real thing with Meals for All .

Do you use real meat?

Yes, Meals for All recipes are developed using real USDA inspected beef and poultry. In fact, on our can label front panel you will see the USDA indicia assuring you of safe and wholesome foods. Beef products are hormone-free.

Our food packaging plant is inspected daily by a U.S.D.A. resident inspector and complies with strict standards for wholesomeness and cleanliness. Federal inspection enables the manufacturer to offer a complete line of real poultry and beef. We do not use flavored TVP as a meat substitute --- you get the real thing with Meals for All .

How do you maintain the freshness of the foods for ten years?

Since foods are sensitive to oxygen degradation, a “state-of-the-art” oxygen absorber is placed in head space of each can to ensure the very best shelf life.
Upon opening a can, you will see a small sealed envelope of the oxygen-absorber called a “desiccant.” It contains mostly silica gel which is non-toxic and safe to use in food packaging. Discard the desiccant in the trash and begin preparation.

What is a desiccant and what does it do?

A desiccant is a drying agent containing iron oxide pellets. It absorbs and holds particles of water and oxygen to itself. The desiccants are non-toxic and should be discarded upon opening the cans. If it is not harmful, why do we print “Do Not Eat” on the packet? Because, it's not food and it tastes terrible!

What if someone ingests the desiccant?

You should not have any ill effects. As always, if you are having symptoms seek medical attention.

Are the products freeze dried or dehydrated?

Our meals contain foods with a combination of freeze-dried and dehydrated ingredients. When developing recipes, optimal taste, texture and cost are considerations for best methods. Expensive ingredients like meats, shrimp, asparagus and other costly vegetables are generally freeze-dried. Other ingredients such as apple or onion actually taste better dehydrated.

By utilizing both freeze-dried and dehydrated products, we offer products that taste fresh once they are reconstituted. Our process maintains the ingredient’s original flavor, shape, and color but most importantly, the food retains nutritional value. Each ingredient has been studied with a scientific precision to deliver the best tasting and most capably preserved product on the market.

What are the differences between dehydrated and freeze dried foods?

Dehydrating food is simply having the water content removed through low heat or modern air drying methods. During dehydration, the product will shrink making it up to 80% less bulky than “wet pack” foods, and 10-15 times lighter in weight. Freeze drying involves removing moisture through a space age freeze blasting method, then “super heating” it to cause all the water to vaporize into steam. This product does not shrink in size and keeps the original volume, thus requiring more storage space.

What is dehydration?

The standard method of dehydrating vegetables and spices is to place the items on a conveyor belt and run them through an oven at a high temperature for a relatively short time. Between 90% and 95% of the moisture is removed. Some vegetables are more suited to this form of drying than others.

This means that with the addition of water, the product reconstitutes back to its original state more easily. Preferable items include: onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, celery, carrots and mushrooms. Dehydrated items such as peas, corn and green beans do not reconstitute as well as freeze-dried.

What is freeze-drying?

Freeze drying is the most effective way to remove water from food. Freeze-drying (also known as lyophilization or cryodesiccation) is a dehydration process typically used to preserve food and make it more convenient for transport and storage. Freeze-drying works by freezing the food and then reducing the surrounding pressure and adding just enough heat to allow the frozen water in the food to sublime directly from the solid phase to the gas phase. If freeze-dried food is then sealed to prevent the re-absorption of moisture, the food may be stored at room temperature without refrigeration, and be protected against spoilage for many years.

Preservation is possible because the greatly reduced water content inhibits the action of microorganisms and enzymes that would normally spoil or degrade the food. Freeze-drying also causes less damage to the food than other dehydration methods that employ the use of higher temperatures. Freeze-drying does not usually cause shrinkage or toughening of the material being dried. In addition, flavors, smells and nutritional value generally remain unchanged, making the process popular for preserving food. Freeze-dried products make up the majority of ingredients used for our Meals for All  products. Many of our food products are custom freeze-dried to suit our strict quality requirements. Our freeze-dried products include: grains, beans, fruits, meats, seafood, pastas, vegetables, and eggs.

What are the key advantages of freeze-dried products?

98% of the moisture is removed. Foods retain the original taste and nutritional value. Foods are quick to reconstitute and easy to prepare. Hot or cold water may be used for reconstitution (although water takes longer.)

Product shelf life is extended. No preservatives are necessary. Freeze drying results in a super-lightweight and compact product.

What are some advantages of dehydrated foods?

The decrease in weight and volume during dehydration makes this an easy, space saving product to store.

Does the nutritional value decrease during dehydration or storage?

No. The only component removed from the food during dehydration is the moisture or water.

What is T.V.P. and is it used in Meals for All  foods?

T.V.P. is Textured Vegetable Protein. It is a soy based product used as a protein substitute, offering an inexpensive vegetarian alternative to meat. Meals for All  does not use TVP as a protein substitute or enhancer.

All our beef or poultry entrees contain real meat that USDA inspected right at our food manufacturing plant. Our Meals for All  vegetarian entrees also do not contain TVP, but rely on natural ingredients for protein.

What alternative uses are there for Meals for All products?

In addition to emergency preparedness, small facilities with limited trained staff may find the Meals for All suitable as an alternative to supplement their everyday meals, such as for weekends.

 

Nutrition and Special Diets

 
How does Meals for All determine what items to include in the Meals for All  menus?

The three to seven day emergency menus were planned by Registered Dietitians using their knowledge of nutrition, meal planning, volume feeding and emergency services. Meals for All menus were designed to be a complete and balanced diet of three delicious meals per day. Further, we believe that providing familiar foods and complete meals will assist in an emergency or disaster to offer security and safety to vulnerable populations.

How many calories and grams of protein does Meals for All provide?

The menus are designed to provide approximately 2100 kilocalories and 90 grams of protein per day. When comparing to other food sources or plans, make sure the caloric counts are not high due to refined sugar. Meals for All does not use white sugar either in any of our recipes or as a supplement to increase caloric counts. Only desserts should contain sugar!

What are the nutritional values of the Meals for All  foods?

By careful selection of ingredients, we can achieve nutritional profiles close to either fresh or frozen products. Each can is labeled with the familiar “Nutrition Facts Label.”

Can I get complete nutritional information on your menus?

Certainly! The Meals for All menus, recipes and food products have been nutritionally analyzed by a Registered Dietitian. Our menu plan meets the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) of the Food and Nutrition Board and are in compliance with federal and state regulations for healthcare facilities. View the nutritional analysis sample here

Can Meals for All  be used to meet therapeutic diets?

Our specially formulated menus and recipes have been nutritionally analyzed by a Registered Dietitian to assure the planned meals will fit most common healthcare facility diets. Specifically, you can be assured that the daily meals are suitable for the following diets: diabetic, carbohydrate restricted, 1800-2000 calories per day, low fat, low cholesterol, sodium restricted (no added salt, low salt, 2 gram sodium and even renal diets!).

Can Meals for All  be used for texture modified diets?

Before packaging, the special Puree Meals for All food items are specially processed for the puree texture. When dry, these products appear to be the consistency of coarse cornmeal. They are simply reconstituted with water, just like the regular foods, eliminating the need for blenders or food processors when electricity may not be available.

In minutes, you will be ready to serve persons who need a puree consistency diet texture.  Be sure to order your puree food separate from the Meals for All menu units. The regular Meals for All foods can also be easily changed to a puree texture with a food mill or hand-crack blender (also available from Meals for All .)

Are Meals for All products gluten free?

Our food is not gluten free; however we've done our best to make them as healthy as possible. In an emergency situation, the meals are ideal for people that aren't allergic to gluten that would still need to eat to be able to stay alive. Meals for All units contain the following GLUTEN-FREE ITEMS:  corn, green peas, apples, applesauce and peaches.

  

Preparation

  
How much water will I need?

For the meals, 8-10 cups will be needed for each #10 can prepared. Be sure to follow the recipe on each can as the amount of water varies depending on the natural product.

Do you have guidelines for water storage?

The Meals for All foods will require water for rehydration. In addition to this water for the meals, most guidelines recommend storing a minimum of 1 gallon of water, per person, per day for drinking and personal hygiene. Bulk water storage will meet most of these needs, but we suggest that your plan also allow for smaller units (such as gallons) that can be easily transported along with the meals in an evacuation.

Individual water servings may also be handy in an emergency. Be sure to check expiration dates and rotate accordingly. Some water products which we have tested can be ordered from Meals for All.

How much water should be stored with the Meals for All food?

The units have a recommended amount that should be stored for reconstitution of your Meals for All food supply. However this is based strictly on the amount needed for reconstitution only – it does not account for water that will be used for drinking and personal hygiene. We recommend storing a minimum of 1 gallon of water, per person, per day for these separate uses.

Do I need to use hot water?

If you don't have the time or access to hot water, the meals can be re-hydrated and reconstituted with water of any temperature; of course the process is faster when the water is hot.

Do I have to use boiling water?

Hot water speeds up the process of reconstitution. Meals for All  will be ready to eat more quickly and will be more palatable when hot water is used. However, many of the meals can be re-hydrated and ready to eat with any temperature of water.

What are the rehydration guidelines?

Reconstitution of Meals for All foods will vary with each product. For your convenience, each can is labeled with a recommended amount of water for reconstitution.

Can the Meals for All  foods be eaten without rehydration?

All of our products are safe and edible “as is” right out of the can. Dehydrated fruits in particular are like raw fruits that are sweet, crunchy and edible without the water content if preferred and tolerated by clients. However, eating too many dehydrated foods that are not reconstituted is not advisable, unless attention is given to proper hydration for vulnerable populations.

How much fuel does it take to prepare these meals?

The Meals for All emergency solution is energy efficient and expects that there may be limited resources in an emergency. Just enough fuel to boil the water is all that it takes as meals are fully cooked and just need to be reconstituted; no further re-heating is necessary.

How long will it take to boil the water?

That depends on many factors such as the starting temperature of the water, volume of water, the pot you are using and what material it is constructed from, whether the pot is covered, and your altitude above sea level. Even the minerals in water can slightly affect the boiling point. We suggest that you do a trial of the boiling time in your location using your equipment to best determine the boiling time.

  

Packaging

  
How are the foods packaged?

Meals for All products are sealed in heavy gauge, corrosion resistant steel cans with a double enamel coating. This special enamel helps prevent rust on the outside of the can, and the metal from being in contact with the food on the inside. We utilize the latest canning techniques in a modern, state-of-the-art packing plant.

packaging

 

 

 

How many #10 cans fit in a box?

Six cans fit in a standard #10 can box which is 18.75" x 12.75" x 7.25".

What is meant by transportable emergency solution?

Packaging in groups of 25 meals allows emergency food to be easily transported with individuals who must be relocated. In an emergency grab-and-go scenario, boxes are clearly labeled to facilitate distribution of evacuation supplies. Natural disasters and other emergencies can come quickly with little warning, so Meals for All was designed to be flexible in case of evacuations. Be sure to send water along with the food supply.

Do you offer substitutions on the Meals for All menus?

Unfortunately we do not. Meals for All does not remove or add any food items. Our meals are planned to be nutritionally complete, appeal to most populations and meet the stringent nutritional and therapeutic needs of healthcare facilities. The packaged meals also help to keep our product costs moderate, making  Meals for All  the cost-effective emergency preparedness solution. If this is a concern, please contact us to discuss your needs.

  

Storage and Shelf Life

  
Where should I keep my product?

Heat, light and moisture can degrade any product over time. We prepare our products to resist the elements (especially light and moisture). The ideal location is one where the products will stay dark and relatively cool. Once the foods leave our facilities we have no control over storage conditions. So be conscientious and avoid high heat — the cooler the better.

For optimal storage life it is suggested that food be stored at room temperature in a cool, dry place, such as a basement. Garages, attics, or metal sheds tend to get too warm and should be avoided when considering possible storage areas.

Do the Meals for All  foods take up much space?

Surprisingly little. A complete three day food reserve for 100 persons is contained in only 32 cases. It takes up about the space of a home washing machine. This reduced volume is obtained by thoroughly drying the food.

How long do the meals last in storage?

Expect Meals for All to be fresh and wholesome for up to ten years. For optimal storage life it is suggested that food be stored in a cool, dry place. If stored for longer periods, or at higher temperatures, food may degrade in color, but will still be safe and nutritious to consume. The only way to check the food is a harmless taste test. If the food has lost flavor or tastes bitter, it may have turned rancid and should be discarded.

What affects the storage life of Meals for All  foods?

This depends upon where you live. Meals made up of both freeze-dried and dehydrated components are affected by temperature, moisture and light. Optimal storage conditions for our meals are in cool, dry places. For example, if you’ve stored your food in a shed that has a temperature of 90ºF, you should expect a shelf life less than half of what could be obtained at room temperature (70-75ºF.)

How will we know if the food is safe to eat?

Excessive exposure to a warm storage area will cause loss of nutritional value, off flavors, odors, and rancidity. Although foods with an off odor could be safely consumed, we suggest they be discarded as they are not palatable or appetizing.

What happens if the cans are damaged in storage?

Handling and physical damage must be kept to a minimum. If possible, we recommend that #10 cans be stored in their cardboard cases to keep them clean, safe and ready to use. If exposed to moisture, labels may deteriorate and outside of cans may rust (small amounts of rust are not a concern.) Damage to can seams and excessive rust must be avoided. Never store food directly on the ground or on concrete floors — moisture can build up inside containers.

What is the shelf life of Meals for All  products?

When properly stored, Meals for All has a ten year proven shelf life. Our food ingredients and recipes are specifically chosen to maximize the shelf life providing longer security and value. Extended shelf life is primarily affected by oxygen, fat, moisture, heat and time. Some foods will maintain their color, flavor and nutrition for many more years if stored in ideal conditions. We feel it is inappropriate to promise or suggest shelf life of any longer than 10 years (although shelf life may be longer when stored in ideal conditions).

How are the Meals for All foods dated?

During canning, the manufacturer ink jets product information and manufacturer production date on the end of each #10 can with an industry standard “Julian Code Dating System.” Further, each can and the cardboard case is printed with a "best if used by" date. Here is an example and how to read the Julian date code information:
94521 Beef Stroganoff 03110-6226

The first numbers 94521 are the product ID numbers followed by the name of the product. The next five digits 03110 are the Julian Date code. 031 represents the calendar day of the year or January 31st. 10 represents the year produced. The last four digits 6226 represent the manufacturer’s lot number. There have been many variations of this formula used in the past. If you are unable to decipher the date code on a product please contact us and we will be happy to assist.

Do you guarantee the ten year shelf life?

The manufacturer does its best to ensure the longest possible shelf life. The latest techniques of oxygen absorber technology are used to minimize oxygen exposure. Because of the various factors which affect shelf life, over which we have no control, we cannot guarantee that your results will match our estimates. In order to maximize shelf life, do not expose to high or freezing temperatures for an extended period of time.

What are your recommended guidelines for inspection?

Store Meals for All foods in a location that is easily accessible for periodic inspections. Meals for All suggests that a physical inspection and inventory of your emergency preparedness foods and supplies be conducted at least annually. Stay alert to any moisture retention in the cardboard boxes.

  

Purchasing

  
How much food should we have stored for our facility?

The needs of each facility are different. How many people will depend upon your emergency plan for various hazards, community location, number of staff or visitors and expected surge of disaster victims.

  

Shipping

  
Does the price include shipping?

No, it does not. We do not include the shipping on any of the products. For this reason, you get the best possible price on the food and emergency preparedness items without being overcharged. Each order gets a custom direct shipping quote to ensure that you are only paying as much as you need to and not more! We work directly with trucking companies and small package companies to get the best possible shipping prices. Meals for All shipping and handling total includes the following:
Small packages 0-300 lbs. (via UPS or FedEx):

  1. Signature required for delivery Larger Pallet size order 200-1500+ lbs. (via trucking company):
  2. Signature required for delivery
  3. Lift gate service (no dock or forklift at destination)
  4. Appointment for scheduled delivery (the trucking company will call to schedule a delivery with you to ensure someone is at the location to sign and inspect the pallet)
How long does it take to receive my order?

The lead time for orders placed is typically between 1-5 business days depending on the size of the order. Most buyers receive their product in less than two weeks from the time it is ordered. We pride ourselves on our quick turn-around time. We keep a small inventory to immediately fill current orders. Meals for All foods are continuously canned to ensure the freshest products. You can be assured that the product you receive from Meals for All is as fresh as can be.

How are the Meals for All  orders shipped?

All orders are shipped direct to the customer FOB. Orders of more than a few cases are shipped common carrier on a shrink wrapped pallet. Your order will be delivered to your loading dock and can be easily moved with a hand pallet jack to the designated storage area. We suggest that you prepare your storage area in advance of delivery. Depending on where the order is being shipped, the shipping time (once it leaves our facility) can range from 1-6 business days in the contiguous U.S. and 7-20 days for Hawaii and Alaska. Canadian orders vary due to customs requirements and usually take between 5-14 days.

What should I look out for when my pallet is received?

 It is very important to take a moment before signing the driver’s paperwork to inspect your delivery. The total case count of the shipment is noted on the bill of lading; please check to verify that all of these cases are present on the pallet before signing any of the driver’s paperwork. We take extra measures to ensure the integrity and accuracy of your shipment which is stretch wrapped in plastic. PLEASE make note of any missing or damaged items on the bill of lading and have the driver verify it as well. This will help us reserve our rights for a freight claim, if there are damaged or missing products. Please notify us within 5 business days of delivery with any damages and/or missing products. Also if there are any concerns please notify us as soon as possible.

What is Meals for All Return Policy?

USDA does not allow food products, once shipped, to be returned to the manufacturing plant to avoid cross contamination. Check with your distributor for their return policy and any re-stocking charges.

  

About Meals for All

  
Where are we located?

Our corporate offices are in Sacramento, California. Our food is from farms across the United States and is guaranteed for freshness. We build each order after it is placed to make sure foods reach our guaranteed freshness claim.

Why should I purchase Meals for All ?

The Registered Dietitians at Nutricopia developed Meals for All specifically to meet the nutritional needs of patients/residents at healthcare facilities. Our food manufacturer is the industry leader with a 30+ year record of complete customer satisfaction and packs foods for many US national companies.

We are confident that you will find our product both the best priced and the most value for emergency preparedness. We know that the Meals for All  emergency foods represent a sizable investment. The purchaser should be discriminating in selecting the manufacturer and the value added assurance of meals and recipes specifically planned for healthcare facilities by a Registered Dietitian.

Do you have samples?

Yes, we do.

Do you offer demonstrations?

Yes, we do. Check our website for coming events at industry trade shows. We do demonstrations locally in our area. If there is a larger demonstration for a group out of our area, we would be happy to work that out with you.
Please contact us at 1-916-832-MEAL (6325.)

  

 

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