Millions of Texans have been without electricity since a winter storm compromised the state's power grid earlier this week. One of the many issues to come out of this disaster is food waste. As freezers go days without power, Texas residents are watching the food they desperately need thaw and go bad. As Food & Wine reports, the USDA has a piece of advice for people currently dealing with this situation: Resist the temptation to use your yard as a freezer.
The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) addresses this problem on its website. Though it may feel freezing outside, the FSIS emphasizes that the open world is very different from the controlled conditions of a kitchen appliance. Heat from direct sunlight can thaw frozen food even when it's below 32°F. Temperature changes are hard to predict, so your food may freeze, thaw, and freeze again over the course of a day, leaving it vulnerable to foodborne pathogens. A more obvious danger is that leaving your food outside exposes it to weather, insects, and wildlife. In such conditions, it's impossible to know whether your food is safe to eat once you bring it inside.
Just because you shouldn't bury your frozen pizza in the snow doesn't mean you can't take advantage of the freezing weather during a blackout. Instead of putting food outside, try transferring some of that cold into your freezer. Fill buckets or other containers with water and let them freeze outside. You can use this homemade ice to keep your freezer chilly even if the power has been out for several days.
People in Texas are still struggling to stay warm and fed as electricity companies work to repair the damage from the cold weather. Here are some ways you can help the state's most vulnerable residents during the crisis.
[h/t Food & Wine]