HOUSTON - Many people lost a lot of food in their refrigerators and freezers when the power was out last week. But there are ways you can collect up to $500 to replace it.
First, let's talk about what's safe to eat after a power outage and what's not. Your working fridge is about 40 degrees. If fish, meat or poultry sat at temperatures higher than 40 degrees more than two hours, you should have thrown it out. Other foods in the fridge get tossed after four hours.
Food in the freezer lasts up to 48 hours without power if you didn't open the door and let the cold air out. If food still has frozen crystals on it or is 40 degrees or below, it's considered safe.
When in doubt, throw it out.
Spoiled food is often covered, usually up to $500, on homeowner's and renter's insurance policies.
"Renter's insurance is all about your personal property, that which you walk into that rental home, that rental apartment. So often food is part of that personal property coverage," said Camille Garcia with the Insurance Council of Texas.
Check the first page of your policy for words like "refrigerated property" or "food endorsement." Then check the terms. Some policies will not cover food spoilage if a power outage was widespread or didn't orginate on your property.
To file a claim, it helps if you can take photos of the food before you throw it out. Receipts can help, but usually aren't necessary.
Consider whether your deductible will eat up your benefit.
"In some policies, there is no deductible. In other policies, there is a deductible applied, but that's all specfiic to your policy," said Garcia.
If you're not covered for food spoilage, you can also check a home warranty or you can apply to FEMA.
"FEMA will have asked you to have filed an insurance claim first. Take that information, as to who your carrier is, what your claim number is, and things of that nature, and then FEMA often compensates for that which is not covered under your policy," explained Garcia.
SNAP recipients who lost food can apply for replacement benefits. Call 211 and press option 2 or submit form H1855 to the Health and Human Services Commission. You can fax it to 1-877-447-2839, or mail it to PO Box 149027, Austin, TX, 78714-9027.