Can the Government Take Your Stockpiled Food?

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After the recent pandemic started, store shelves were empty due to people racing to buy way more supplies than they needed, including toilet paper. But those who stockpile food regularly do it to prepare for emergencies in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the supply chain. However, there is a fear that the government can come in and take your stockpiled food, but is this true?

The government cannot take your stockpiled food during normal conditions. However, if they declare martial law, they can technically come and take your stockpiled food. Several recent presidents signed this and other provisions into law.

If you’re a prepper and you are worried about whether or not the government can seize your stockpiled food, stick around. We’ll talk about when they can, if it’s illegal to stockpile food, and if the government does the same thing as you. Let’s get started.

Martial Law Is the Only Time Food Can Be Seized

The government usually cannot come into your home without a warrant to seize your stockpiled food. However, if the government were to declare martial law, they have the authority to seize it. That means that they can “redistribute food, supplies, and water” so that more people can have a chance of survival during an emergency.

However, during an emergency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that people have enough food stockpiled to last themselves and their families for two weeks. 

Any more than that is considered hoarding, which the government strongly discourages.

Is It Illegal To Stockpile Food?

It is not illegal to stockpile food, but hoarding food is discouraged. The government can step in if they feel that you are hoarding food. The difference between hoarding and stockpiling is that when you hoard food, you are buying large amounts of food from the store in an irresponsible manner.

Stockpiling food means putting non-perishable foods away responsibly and never clearing out the store shelves. People who do it this way are systematically building their food supplies without depriving others of food.

On the other hand, hoarding means that people start to panic and remove everything off the store shelves in fear of something bad happening. The government prefers that you don’t do this.

There is a large difference between these two distinctions, but if the government determines that you’re hoarding food, they can step in and take it. 

How to Prevent Government Seizures

The best thing you can do to prevent the government from coming to your door in the first place is to be quiet about your stockpile. The fewer people who know about it, the less likely it is that anyone will spill the beans about your supplies.

Another thing you should do is buy only enough food for two weeks for your family, so as to not draw attention to yourself. If you go into the store and buy carts and carts of food, that might raise suspicions among store personnel, and they might call the authorities.

But if you buy a normal amount of food and put a little away each time you shop, no one will suspect a thing.

Does the Government Stockpile Food?

The government stockpiles food for national emergencies to distribute to its citizens. Otherwise known as the Strategic National Stockpile, it contains large supplies of drugs and vaccines in the case of a pandemic or other emergency. They also stockpile food and other needed supplies.

What other things does the government stockpile? Here’s a quick list of these supplies:

  • Petroleum, oil, and diesel fuel
  • Medical supplies
  • Vaccines
  • Antibiotics
  • Beds
  • Ventilators
  • Helium
  • Rare earth magnets
  • Food
  • Water
  • Generators

Most of these items in the national stockpile are meant for helping people recover after a natural disaster or a global pandemic.

Many people have recently criticized the Trump administration for not replenishing the medical stockpile, but others have criticized the Obama administration for not replenishing it after the H1N1 outbreak. 

However, it’s up to each administration to replenish its stockpile every time something occurs, and the stockpiles get too low.

Now, can the government take your stockpiled food during a national emergency? More than likely, it can’t. In fact, the government encourages citizens to stockpile at least two weeks of non-perishable foods and other supplies should something happen.

Why People Stockpile Food

People stockpile food to prepare for a natural disaster, a global pandemic, or other catastrophic events. They are sometimes known as “doomsday preppers” and are known for going above and beyond the normal preventive measures for preparing for a disaster.

But aside from those who might go a little further than what might be necessary, other people stockpile food and supplies in case of a disaster. If you want to do this for yourself and your family, there are some safe and legal ways you can do it. 

Let’s talk about them now.

Stock Up On Non-Perishable Food

A stockpile of food is only good if the items stay fresh. 

That being said, you’ll need to make sure that most of your food is non-perishable and is stored in a cool, dry place. You’ll want to stock up on canned goods, dry beans, dry peas, flour, salt, and other items. These foods will provide the bulk of your caloric needs should something happen.

Here’s a longer list of what you should stock your food prep pantry with:

  • Powdered milk
  • Powdered butter
  • Dried beans
  • Canned vegetables
  • Canned fruits
  • Dried pasta
  • Pasta sauce
  • Canned meat
  • Dehydrated meat
  • Dehydrated fruits and vegetables
  • Bottled water
  • A generator or two
  • Extra batteries
  • A propane camp stove
  • Propane for your stove

Some of these items are not food-related, but they will come in handy when you don’t have electricity or gas to cook with.

Buy a Little At a Time

When you buy groceries during your weekly or bi-weekly trips, you’ll want to buy a few extra items for your stockpile. This will keep people from becoming suspicious that you might be hoarding food, and it will keep people from calling authorities about you.

Along that same vein, don’t tell anyone about your stash, and you might want to store it in separate places in case the government does declare martial law.


The government cannot take your stockpiled food during times of peace and civility. 

However, if they declare martial law, then they might have the right to come and take your stash. But, this might be highly unlikely because the government goes to the farmers and large corporations for resources first. Your stockpiled food will probably be safe.

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