Posted by The Editorial Desk / Thursday, June 2nd, 2011
We’re screwed. We all knew that. It’s an idea that we’ve all had a few years to get used to. Someday, probably tomorrow, the entire economy is going to collapse and we’re all going to be left to fend for ourselves. So, where will you be when the U.S. government defaults on its loans and dissolves? Smashing someone’s head in over a can of beets during the inevitable food riots or sitting pretty at home, watching pre-recorded television while you prepare a hearty meal from your year’s supply of freeze-dried, dehydrated food that you bought from Costco?
Though perfect for the shut-in World of Warcraft crowd, or for bachelors who have grown beyond the point of caring, Shelf Reliance markets its creepy disaster chow to the fringe survivalist set. Primarily sold online, Shelf Reliance also relies on a growing army of (eerily dedicated) regional consultants who schlep the product at home preparedness parties.
They have a nutty twitter feed, a healthy following on facebook (nearly 9,000 followers), and, according to a letter allegedly from Shelf Reliance’s Executive VP Jason Norton posted by a (again, nutty) survivalist blogger, their profits more than doubled between February and March of 2011.
Like any good weird, cultish internet thing, they also have their own cooking show. A cooking show that feels like it was filmed in a ritzy underground bunker.
Are you simultaneously amused, confused and skeezed out? Us too!
The kits, which range from $873.99 for a 3 month kit to deluxe packages for large families that can cost over $7,500, include a pretty wide variety of foodstuffs, mostly packaged in gallon-sized cans. Some of it sounds nice enough, like the cans of elbow macaroni or organic apple slices; but then there are the 12 cans of hard white winter wheat and two cans of taco textured vegetable protein that’s “consistent with real meat.”
It’s all pretty funny, what with the comically large cans and laughably specific statistics like “Total Calories: 783,220,” but before long it becomes difficult to escape the realization that behind all of the cheerful packaging, pastel colors and photos of smiling, pretty ladies is an unsettling culture based around fear.
Even Shelf Reliance’s brand name, Thrive, has sinister undertones, suggesting that the only thing that stands between humanity and total annihilation is a giant stockpile of freeze-dried food, and, this is only lightly implied, a well stocked gun rack. The letter sent out to consultants posted above also has a nasty tone of profiteering on the fear generated around major disasters like the Japanese Tsunami and subsequent Fukushima Daiichi meltdown: “I am sure that the Japan Tsunami as well as other world conditions are increasing awareness and demand for our products.”
Emergency preparedness seems to be a surprisingly robust business as of late. Glenn Beck, no doubt desperate for sponsors of any sort at this point, has thrown his weight behind foodinsurance.com, a company that promises “gourmet quality” freeze-dried food.
In essence, Shelf Reliance, and companies like it, sells the idea of safety, of a buffer from the outside world. No matter what may happen to the economy, or to the government, Shelf Reliance peddles the idea that if it all goes to hell, you will be fine, because you, unlike your sleeping, clueless neighbors, have built your own water filtration system.
Clearly they aren’t Twilight Zone fans.
If, by the way, anybody wants to send us some of this stuff to try—that would be rad.
- Kris King