Is Food Stockpiling Illegal In the United States?

stockpiling illegal
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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused many to worry about their food supplies. Lockdowns and limitations around the United States and elsewhere have forced people to stay in their homes, or at least be stuck longer than usual.

These limitations have made people concerned about their food supplies. The problem is especially true for those who are worried about going to grocery stores, as those places could be disease vectors during a pandemic.

This is one of the many reasons why people stockpile food. Food stockpiling is a necessity for emergencies, especially ones like the pandemic the world is in right now. There is no telling if the government will force more lockdowns, or if certain places are truly safe.

But there also exists a question in whether or not it is legal to stockpile foods. People need to have enough food if they are going to survive lockdowns and other long-term health threats without endangering themselves and others any further. So, is food stockpiling illegal?

Officially, food stockpiling is legal. But there are some concerns you should also follow.

The General Rule

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The basic “is food stockpiling illegal” rule is that it is perfectly legal to purchase as much food as needed when there are no current or forecasted emergencies. The free market allows people to purchase as much food as desired, provided there is enough on hand for sale and you can get access to whatever you need.

Constitutional Protection

stockpiling illegal in US
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You should not worry about any parties attempting to collect your food when you are stockpiling in most situations. According to the Crisis Equipped website, the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution says that no party can conduct an unreasonable search or seizure of property without a search warrant. A court must establish a probable cause for the search and seizure to occur.

No one can try to seize your stockpiled foods in most situations. Therefore, it should be safe for you to stockpile your foods.

Governmental Guidance

One sign of there being no “stockpiling illegal” concerns comes from the United States government directly recommending people have enough food on hand for emergencies. The United States Department of Homeland Security suggests that people hold a two-week supply of water, food, and prescriptions in the event of an emergency. You could always stockpile more if you wish, but two weeks should be the bare minimum.

The American Public Health Association also encourages people to stockpile foods for emergencies. These include such foods as the following:

  • Canned foods with low sodium and fat; these include fruits and vegetables
  • Dried meats and produce
  • Flour, sugar, and other staples for cooking
  • Beans and other dried legumes
  • Peanut butter
  • Powdered milk
  • Pasta, rice, and other dried grains
  • Cereals and granola
  • One gallon of water per person each day

What About Martial Law?

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There is one concern to see surrounding the “is food stockpiling illegal” story. That point involves martial law, one of the most severe orders that may be undertaken in an emergency or pandemic. Martial law entails civil law being suspended with the local military taking full control over a local area.

Martial law may be declared in many situations, including:

  • After a direct foreign attack on local interests
  • To control mob action, including unruly activities involving mass amounts of people
  • When resources are overwhelmed, or there are no resources available for people to utilize themselves
  • Where there is a substantial health emergency

The rules for martial law can vary by country. In the United States, individual states have the right to declare martial law, but it would entail strict reviews from local courts and from legislative bodies to determine if martial law should be declared.

Food stockpiling is still legal while under martial law. But that does not mean you are guaranteed to keep your resources. Executive Order 10998 states that while an area is in martial law, the federal government has the right to seize food stockpiles. The government can gather these from private and public places. There is a chance the government could seize your stockpile while under martial law. But there are no guarantees that the government will do this, especially as your pile is still legal.

The Hill also states that martial law must be done within reasonable grounds and should adhere to the rules of the United States Constitution. That means you may still be protected by the Fourth Amendment, although it might be easier for government to acquire a suitable warrant for seizure against anyone.

Caution Is Critical

Whatever the case, you will still need to be cautious when trying to acquire your foods. While there are no stockpiling illegal rules in groceries and other retail spots, that does not mean that you should buy an entire load of products at once.

The Newbie Prepper website recommends that people avoid excess buying at once. That means you shouldn’t purchase forty packages of flour when a store has fifty of them, for instance. You don’t want to make any excess purchases that would make you look suspicious. You can also be courteous when you do this, as you will leave enough of a product for other people, including others trying to build their stockpiles.

Newbie Prepper also recommends that you should get about two weeks’ worth of food at a time. You can work your way up to up to a year’s worth of food after a few shopping trips. Keeping your purchases under control ensures you will have a better chance at stockpiling foods properly. You’ll also avoid drawing attention to yourself to where others might try and ask for some of what you have at home.

In summary, it should be safe for you to stockpile foods without breaking the law. You will need to watch for how you acquire those foods and that you are responsible for figuring out what you should purchase and store. Planning your stockpile is critical for ensuring you will stay protected during even the worst emergencies.


Crisis Equipped

Newbie Prepper

United States Department of Homeland Security

UK Independent

Disaster Center

American Public Health Association

The Hill

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