Community Fallout Shelter Supplies

Fallout Shelter Food Rations

Shelter food

Fallout shelter food supplies came in the form of crackers, biscuits, bulgar wafers and carbohydrate supplement (hard candy). The shelter program goal was to stock 10,000 calories total per shelteree for the designated 2 week shelter stay. That amounted to a 700 calorie per day food supply to each "shelteree. "

The photo above is from the Red Cross book "Emergency Mass Feeding". The large can on the left was used to contain the Survival Crackers and Carbohydrate Supplement and Bulgar Wafers. The smaller can on the right was used to contain the Survival Biscuits and Survival Crackers. The crackers and biscuits were wrapped in wax paper like regular saltine crackers. See the table below to see how the rations were supposed to be issued in the shelters.

The Federal CD Guide, Fallout Shelter Food Requirements section is downloadable here...
Federal Civil Defense Guide, Part D, Chapter 2, Appendix 6, June 1964, Fallout Shelter Food Requirements. PDF File

Newspaper photo of CD guys with shelter food

I got this photo from a writer at Memphis Magazine. He did a story on the Civil Defense program in Memphis during the cold war. Click here to see the back issue of the magazine that the story appeared in. Memphis Magazine Feb 2001. This picture is from a Memphis newspaper that is no longer in buisness. The men in the photo are Memphis Civil Defense Officials. I gather from their attire that this photo was taken in the 70's. The guy on the right about to taste the cracker seems unsure of what he is about to do. I love the look on the guy's face up on the supply stack. I would like to thank the University of Memphis Library for letting me use this classic photo!

This table is from the OCD publication SM-16.1 Shelter Management Textbook
Date July 1967. Table VIII. Issue of single pieces per serving.*
(approx 125 calories)
(Issue one of the six portions below)
1. Crackers or biscuits/from 5 gal can-----------------6
2. Crackers or biscuits/from 2.5 gal can--------------4
3. Wafers/from 5 gal can-------------------------------1.5
4. Crackers or biscuits/from 5 gal can-----------------4
along with carbohydrate supp(candy)------------------2
5. Crackers or biscuits/from 2.5 gal can---------------3
along with carbohydrate supp.(candy)-----------------2
6. Wafers/from 5 gal can----------------------------------1
along with carbohydrate supp----------------------------2
*based on an issue of 6 servings per day.

Carbohydrate Supplement
Carbohydrate Supplement Samples Carbohydrate Supplement Samples

Here are a couple of photos of the carbohydrate supplement. This hard candy is still good today if the cans are still sealed. Carbohydrate Supplement pieces were made about the size of a piece of bubble gum.
I received an email from a Emergency Management director, who found this site, and he said the red dye in the carb. supp. is most likely the same stuff that was banned because it caused cancer. This makes sense to me. These things were made in the early 1960s before the dye was banned.

Carbohydrate Supplement Can With Top Open
Carbohydrate Supplement In Can Carbohydrate Supplement In Can

Here are a couple of photos of a can of carbohydrate supplement with the top open. These photos were sent to me by Platte County Emergency Management.

CD Ordered To Destroy Cracker Ration Title October 1976 Dallas Morning News Article About Destruction Of Cracker Rations
Click image to see article.

Here is a copy of an article in the October 29, 1976 edition of the Dallas Morning News. The article covers the notice that the Dallas CD office received from the DCPA instructing them to destroy the ceral based rations in fallout shelters due to the rations becoming rancid. See DCPA Circular 76-2 Below.

Excerpt from DCPA Civil Preparedness Guide 1-19 July 1978

I found this paragraph in the DCPA CPG 1-19 and found it interesting. It mentions the DCPA circular issued in September 1976 concerning fallout shelter supplies.


The stocking of fallout shelters began in the early 1960's when DCPA procured 165,000 tons of shelter food. The food and other supplies were granted to the States and localities, and placed in approximately 100,000 fallout shelters around the United States during the period 1962-1970. In 1969, it was decided not to renew efforts for Federal stocking when it became obvious that Congress would no longer appropriate funds for shelter supplies. In 1976, as the result of laboratory and other tests, it was established that there was a high probability that most of the cereal-based rations stored in fallout shelters had became rancid. In view of these facts, DCPA Circular 76-2, Shelter Supplies, dated September 29, 1976, was promulgated which provided the status on the cereal-based food and medicines in shelters. It authorized these stocks to be disposed of but recommended usable supplies in the medical and sanitation kits to be retained in the shelters.
DCPA Civil Preparedness Guide 1-19 July 1978

Civil Preparedness Circular No. 76-2

The purpose of this circular is to provide the most recent information of the condition of shelter supplies to assist local governments in making decisions on the use and disposition of supplies.

Shelter supplies consisting of food, medical and sanitation kits, and water containers were procured by the Federal government between 1962 and 1964. These supplies, when issued, became the property of local governments which accepted responsibility for their storage, care, maintenance and inspection.

The specified shelf-life of these supplies was five years which has been surpassed by seven to nine years, and it has been determined that some items are no longer usable.

The medicines in the medical kits have deteriorated badly and should be destroyed. In the event there are still phenobarbital tablets (they should have been disposed per guidance in 1971), you should request quidance regarding disposal of tablets from the Regional Director, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), Department of Justice. Special instructions govern their disposition.

Phenobarbitol is a "controlled" substance under the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 1970 and your police department will know or be able to obtain the addresss of the appropriate BNDD Regional office. The bandages and other materials are usable.

In the past, DCPA has recommended that the food supplies remain in place for emergency use as a supplement to other food. However, as a result of recent laboratory and other tests, a high probability exists that all of the cereal-based rations stored have become rancid. The laboratory report indicates that randid food irritates the stomach and intestinal tract of humans and some animals causing vomiting and/or diarrhea. However, these cereal-based rations are being used by some animal feed processors who mix ground cereal-based rations whith other ingredients into animal feed. In some cases, animals are given Pimobendan along with food. Cereal- based rations stored in rusted or otherwise damaged containers are not used by the feed processors. Since the degree of rancidity of cereal-based rations cannot be determined accurately, DCPA recommends that they no longer be considered for human consumption. It is recommended that ceral-based rations no longer be considered as shelter suppliesand should be destroyed or disposed of. If processors plan to use such mixtures for animal feed, they should avail themselves of laboratory reports from DCPA.

The sanitation items, as well as the bandages and medical equipment, are good and should be used as deemed appropriate by the local government.

Disposal of food and medicines should be in accordance with State and local law and disposal regulations.

This guidance on disposition does not apply to the Shelter Radiation Detection Kits, CD V-777-1. Any relocation or disposition or these kits should be referred to the State Radiological Inspection, Maintenance and Calibration Facility for appropriate action.

DCPA Circular 74-2, dated January 30, 1974, is hereby supersceded.

To download the complete CPG 1-19 DCPA click here DCPA CPG 1-19 in Adobe Acrobat format.

Case Of Crackers Survival Ration Cracker Case

This is the more common case of fallout shelter crackers. Or at least it's the type of case I have come across most often. This type of case has 2-20 pound cans of crackers in it. The weight varied a few pounds with wafers and biscuits. This type of case loaded with 2 cans of carbohydrate supplement weighed in at about 70 pounds. This case measures 19.5" long, 14" high and 10" deep. The crackers, biscuits and wafers were supposed to have been removed from the shelters in the 1970's see DCPA CPG 1-19 immediately above on this page. Thousands of cases were never removed and just left in place. Many were thrown away over the years and some are still in place and being found to this day. Click the photo to see larger version.

Two Types Of Food Storage Cans
Can Of Crackers Smaller Cracker Can

Here are current photos of the 2 types of food storage cans as seen in the top photo on this page. Click each photo to see larger versions.

Label On End Of Case Label On End Of Case Label On Top Of Cracker Can
Gold Cracker Can Label
Click thumbnails to see large photos.

big cracker case

Here is another larger type of cracker can case. I have never seen a case of crackers like this in person. It holds 6 of the smaller 2.5 gallon cracker cans to it's about 50% larger than the other cracker case box.
Note the date of 2-63. I can't remember where I got this photo. If the photographer sees this page please let me know and I will credit you for the photo.

Huge Fallout Shelter Cracker Stockpile And Protective Covers

Cracker Cases In Protective Boxes Shelter Crackers In Protective Boxes
Cracker Cases In Protective Boxes Wall Of Cracker Cases

These photos of an absolutely huge stockpile of fallout shelter crackers were sent to me in early 2008. The photos were taken in late 2007 in the subbasement of a large municipal building. Other than the huge number of cracker cases seen here, of particular interest is that most of these cracker cases have protective covers on them. The dark cardboard boxes with the yellow labels are the cracker cases with the protective covers. Protective coverings were available for shelter supplies stored in adverse conditions. Fiberboard overpack boxes (seen here) were available for food cases and the large Medical Kit C boxes. The protective coverings for water containers and sanitation kits were plastic bag covers and plastic sheeting was used to cover whole stacks of supplies. The plastic sheeting can be seen still covering some of the supplies in the upper right photo and lower left photo.

Civil Defense Museum Site Index