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Two months after COVID-19 began spreading around the world, many grocery store shelves remain empty, in part because the demand for food at grocery stores significantly increased at the pandemic’s onset. In addition, the temporary closure of meat processing and packaging plants throughout the U.S has led multiple grocery chains to implement purchase limits on beef, pork, and chicken purchases. Both of these scenarios have prompted concern among consumers, who are experiencing perceived food shortages today and bracing for more in the months to come.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there is plenty of food, but imbalances in the food supply chain has created a situation where the food we have is not in the right places. Adding a variety of healthy, shelf-stable foods to your grocery list is key to ensuring you have plenty of food on hand that will last, especially if your favorite fresh foods happen to be out of stock on your next trip to the store. 

Shelf-stable foods are non-perishable products that can safely be stored at room temperature. Keeping the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans in mind when selecting shelf-stable foods is important to ensure your choices don’t have excessive amounts of unwanted ingredients such as sodium, sugar, and saturated fats.

Examples of Healthy Shelf-Stable Foods
Meat, Fish and Protein
  • Canned or dried beans and lentils, such as garbanzo, kidney beans, pinto, black beans, split peas, yellow or red lentils, with reduced or no added salt/sodium
  • Canned fish or chicken packaged in water with reduced or no added salt/sodium
  • Nut butters
  • Plain nuts and seeds with no sugar or salt
  •  Grains
  • Whole grains, such as brown rice, oats, quinoa, barley
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Whole grain cereal with less added sugar and high fiber content
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Brown or wild rice
  • Corn tortillas
  • Pretzels or popcorn with low or reduced salt
  • Granola and protein bars
  •  Fruits
  • Canned fruits in 100% fruit juice with no added sugar
  • Dried fruits with no added sugars
  • Unsweetened applesauce or fruit pouches
  • Jelly or jam with low sugar or no added sugar
  •  Vegetables
  • Canned vegetables with no added salt
  • Pantry Staples
  • Canned sauces with reduced or no added salt/sodium
  • Canned soups and broth with reduced or no added salt/sodium
  • Olive oil, canola, or other vegetable oils
  • Dry herbs/seasonings
  • Condiments with low or no added sugar or salt/sodium
  • Helping Consumers Make Smart Choices
    The Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods is an excellent resource to help identify the amount of calories, saturated fats, dietary fiber, sodium, added sugar, and other nutrients in each serving of food. For more information on how to use the Nutrition Facts label, check out our toolkit.


    Alabama Cooperative Extension System. “Coronavirus: Healthy Shelf-Stable Foods.” 6 March 2020.

    U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service. “Shelf-Stable Food Safety.” 24 March 2015.

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. “2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition.” December 2015.

    U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “FDA’s Perspective on Food Safety and Availability During and Beyond COVID-19.” 16 April 2020.

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