62 Years Later, Government’s Survival Crackers Still Taste… Awful

Many of our readers recall the 50s and 60s very well. It was a tumultuous time in our country’s history. The Vietnam War and college campus protests. Racial tensions and political assassinations. They all dominated the news.   

But the thing that really had Americans living on edge was the Cold War. Threats of a nuclear attack by the U.S.S.R. resulted in school children practicing duck and cover drills -– anyone else remember Bert the Turtle? — And families building fallout shelters. And storing non-perishable food and water.

In response, one of the foods the U.S. government came up with was the all-purpose survival cracker. Due to its long shelf life, it was considered a nutritional solution for life after a nuclear blast.

More on those crackers in a moment. Including how they tasted 62 years later. 

Grandma’s pantry survival stockpile 

In 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower’s Federal Civil Defense Administration launched a propaganda campaign. It was called “Grandma’s Pantry.” 

Every household was encouraged to have a seven-day supply of food and water available. Just in case an attack occurred. 

Sears, Roebuck and Company displayed government-produced Grandma’s Pantry exhibits in 500 stores. They encouraged people to stock up on Campbell’s Soup and boxes of cornflakes. Plus Hawaiian Punch, Tang, candy bars, and other items. 

Women’s magazines published articles with headlines such as, “Take these steps now to save your family.”

Doomsday food mass produced 

But the government realized these efforts would fall far short of protecting most Americans after a nuclear attack. So, they decided to come up with shelters. 

And a “Doomsday food” that could feed millions… at least for a while. 

This food needed to be nutritious and inexpensive. Also, it is easy to eat and shelf stable. As well as reproducible at a mass scale.

Forget about taste, visual appeal, and attractive packaging. The unspoken mantra was, “Keep it simple, stupid.”

Bulgur chosen for long shelf life

A 1958 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare resulted in the recommendation of a single food item. 

Known as “bulgur,” it was selected because it is processed from whole grain wheat. Which is plentiful in the U.S. 

Bulgur is nutty, nutritious, high in fiber, and safe. It’s also low in cost and very palatable.

A government report at the time stated this. “A long shelf life may well be the single most important criterion for choosing bulgur in a stockpiling program.” 

Survival on 37 cents a day 

The Department of Agriculture eventually decided on crackers as the best medium for bulgur-wheat rations in a bunker scenario. 

New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller said a day’s worth of these crackers cost 37 cents per person. 

The government called its creation the “All-Purpose Survival Cracker.”

They tested these crackers 52 months later. That’s four years and four months. According to a report, there was a “discernible but inconsequential decrease” in flavor.

Taking one for the team 

Fast forward 62 years. We decided to try a box of these survival crackers here at 4Patriots. Just to see how the quality and taste would stand up.

When the box arrived, we knew we had received the real deal. On the side was the wording: “Survival Supplies Furnished by Office of Civil Defense, Department of Defense.”  Also, “Civil Defense, Survival Ration Cracker… Date of Pack: 1962.”  

A couple of our people volunteered to be the guinea pigs. 

Check out the video to see their reactions when they open up the container and bite into this Cold War survival food. Update: they are still alive.


One of them described the taste as “wood-like” with a “paint smell.” Yum! 

The other said the taste reminded him of what a Ritz cracker would taste like if it sat in the back of a hot car for about eight years. Gross. 

All that to say, there are better options than “survival” crackers from the 60’s. 

When it comes to survival, you’ll need hearty, real meals designed to sustain you through a crisis. And made to be just as tasty decades later. 

That’s why stocking up is so important – that way you don’t get stuck eating 62-year-old crisis crackers. 

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