Survival: Turn To The Tart

As hurricane Isabel drew nearer last month, Americans braced themselves by stocking up on batteries, water and... toaster pastries? While reviewing sales data, retailers like Wal-Mart and Giant Food discovered a surge in pre-hurricane Pop-Tarts sales; at BJ's Wholesale Club, they jumped more than 20 percent. "We were surprised," says a BJ's spokeswoman. Why rely on Pop-Tarts in times of trouble? They're cheap, they remain fresh up to a year and they're tasty even untoasted. Though the Department of Homeland Security says Tom Ridge does not keep toaster pastries in his own "emergency food kit," special-projects director Lara Shane says Pop-Tarts fit the government's advice that people keep "high energy, stress/comfort foods" handy.

Nutritionists give the tarts mixed reviews. High in sugar, saturated fat and calories, they're "everything we don't want people to have," says Jan Hangen, a nutritionist at Boston's Children's Hospital. She concedes a person could survive for months on a diet of Pop-Tarts and water. But survivalists would pack on a few pounds. Hangen recommends dried fruit, nuts and lean beef jerky.