Joyce Flynn

As hundreds of thousands of Iowans may wait days for power to be restored, state officials are urging them not to eat the food that’s left in their refrigerators and freezers.

After just four hours without power, perishable food in the refrigerator should be thrown out. Frozen food can remain edible for a couple of days, if the freezer remains closed, but after 48 hours, experts say the contents of a freezer should be tossed, too.

Joyce Flinn, director of Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management, says Iowans in counties that have been declared disaster areas can get help replacing spoiled food.

“The state IA program, as it’s called, is a grant of up to $5000 for low-income residents who are at or less than 200% of the federal poverty guidelines,” Flinn says. “This program covers replacement of spoiled or destroyed food up to a maximum of $50 for one person or $25 for each additional person in the household.”

The grants of up to $5,000 from the state’s Individual Assistance Program also may cover temporary housing, home repairs and the replacement of other property, like damaged appliances and bedroom furnishings.

The governor has so far declared 13 Iowa counties disaster areas and those counties are Benton, Boone, Cedar, Clinton, Dallas, Jasper, Johnson, Linn, Marshall, Muscatine, Poweshiek, Story and Tama. Governor Reynolds said late this morning that more counties will be added to that list after county officials submit damage assessments and make formal requests.