In my world of the zombie apocalypse, the zombies are slightly easier to kill, meaning that if a group keeps calm and stays strong, they can last as long as the food does. But this means I have to plan ahead to figure out how long food will last (not including looting) in the following scenarios.

  1. A highschool, with a class of 27 people and 3 teachers
  2. An average prison, with only 8 inmates and 3 guards.
  3. An 6 story condominium, with 46 tenants.
  4. A Cosco, with 30 shoppers and 12 employees.

In the above scenarios, how long would the food said buildings have, last without rationing? What about with rationing?

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ It's outside the scope of your question, but don't forget about waste management. Literally, where does all the shit go? $\endgroup$
    – user
    Aug 29, 2016 at 6:33
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling very true. In the modern world, the majority of civilization takes for granted that our waste is whisked away reliably and safely, leaving us in clean, sanitary conditions. What happens when that is no longer true? $\endgroup$
    – user1975
    Aug 29, 2016 at 13:11

3 Answers 3

  1. That's a very small highschool. I assume that the class of 27 is just the class that survived. First, you must determine the total number of students that actually go to the school. Once you do, then you can look at the supplies on campus in the cafeteria. From there, you have to decide if electric is still working and if there's a backup generator. Because that will determine if the deep-freeze and refrigeration actually still works. This will also depend on the school district and type of school. For max supplies, you want a school district that hasn't gone to fresh food and veggies. There's also all the vending machines on campus. For schools that have trended out of "un-healthy snacks" there will be a limited amount of food for these students. The variation in numbers in highschools is wide enough that you will have to get more specific for your answer, from the total number of students and teachers on down. Our system, at least here in the USA varies from State to State. I would say that there really is no such thing as an average school.
  2. Again, I assume these are the only survivors. You call this an average prison, but the data varies widely. Some house almost 1,000 inmates, others only 150. This varies as well by state. Start with this census data or head to wikipedia. There really is no such thing as an average prison. It varies even by county. Some have fields where they grow produce (seriously!), some have weekly deliveries, and others rely on stockpiled goods.
  3. 6 story condo 46 tenants. Ok, well, are these ALL the tenants or just the survivors? How many condos are in this 6 story condo?
  4. Cosco 30 people, 12 employees This, finally, is specific enough to answer. The average Cosco stocks about 4,000 different items, and not all of them are food. They are in bulk sizes, and many of them are in the freezer section. For those that aren't, it's quite a lot of food. The first section you really want to look at is water.

Baseline Minimum Daily Water Need: 32 Ounces. That's roughly 10 1/2 gallons per day for your 42 people. Now, some of the food might have water in it, and there are other beverages on the shelves, but most of the stuff that keeps, besides the canned goods.

A full pallet of water supplies roughly 360 gallons of water. The average Cosco will have about 60 of these on-site, going by the pictures I have seen. This is just a guess based on pictures. With this estimate, that's about 21,627 gallons, roughly, unless there has been a run on water. (pallets are not packs, packs are much smaller, a pallet is made up of a bunch of packs.)

That gives you about 2,000 days, if they never bathe.

The food on-site is important, but not as important as the water supply. If there is less than that because of a run on supplies, that changes things. The food, or at least the food kept fresh because it's sealed, will vary, depending on the time of year.

Keep in mind a few factors: The smell of rotting food in cases will bring pests such as rats, and they may tear into the sealed food. I can see this number of people, if they are smart, lasting several years using the supplies here, provided others don't come to take it from them.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ hey, this is really nice, considering all the factors :) Also +1 for the there is no such thing as average X $\endgroup$ Aug 29, 2016 at 5:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ While 27 students does seem small, its not impossible to have a class that size. Salisbury, Pa (near where I grew up) has an average graduating class of roughly 30 or something like that. Still, the entire school would have probably about 100 students on any given day. $\endgroup$ Aug 29, 2016 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ @shiningcartoonist Yep, but it's unclear to me from the data given if these are the sum total of the students or simply one class that survived out of many. Some schools are tiny, some schools are large. My high school had about 2,000 students. The senior class is nearly always (I say nearly because there are always exceptions) smaller than the number of freshmen in highschool. Dropout rates vary, and there are always students who opt to get a GED, so by senior year, the classes get smaller. Data on dropout rate does not include GED or certificate students. $\endgroup$ Aug 29, 2016 at 20:36

This is not for the squeamish, but you do have an additional ready supply of meat. Since the zombies themselves are slightly easier to kill, then provided the zombies are edible they can be killed and cooked.

There might be considerable wastage. Zombie flesh does have a tendency to go off. It should be well cooked to ensure there is no contamination or infection. If infection does occur, provided that countermeasures are taken quickly, this will provide a source of fresh meat in the short term.

While your huddled groups will have to make do with the food they have on hand it might be prudent to supplement their rations with z-meat.


Some questions have risen about the consumption of rotten meat. To quote Alistair Wilson, Exeter University.

Can the human digestive and immune system deal with such food if accustomed to it?

With some caveats yes, but it depends a bit on various factors e.g., what exactly you mean by "rotten", what kind of "meat" (e.g. beef and oysters pose different problems), and whether or not you cook the meat before consumption. Noting that any sudden switch in diet could take your gastrointestinal system (and associated flora) some getting used to (leading to eg minor stomach ache/gas/bowel problems), more serious health risks stem broadly from a) infection by pathogens in/on the meat, b) poisoning by toxins produced by the decomposing action of microorganisms on the meat. As a generalism, cooking sufficiently followed by immediate consumption would remove most serious risks for rotten meat in the same way it would with fresh meat.

There are almost certainly exceptions to this (I am not advocating you give it a go!), and I would also note that consumption of raw "rotten" meat is a different prospect.

Remember it is best eaten cooked and soon after cooking.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't the fact that zombies are made typically made of rotting flesh cause just a few problems? $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    Aug 29, 2016 at 6:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Zombies are not 100% rotten. Note my remark about "considerable wastage". I had already factored that in. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Aug 29, 2016 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ I have yet to see a single piece of zombie fiction where the zombies are edible, even in the most dire circumstances. Either the meat is rotten, infected, or both. Anyone eating zombie flesh would contract some sort of disease, possibly whatever infection causes zombification in the first place. $\endgroup$
    – user1975
    Aug 29, 2016 at 13:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Snowman Edible zombies are fictional niche waiting to be colonized by the enterprising writer. Zombie flesh should be cooked not eaten raw. Cooking gets rid of bacteria, viruses and the like, and makes it palatable. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Aug 29, 2016 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android While cooking food certainly does kill bacteria, some organisms or their spores can survive cooking even above the temperatures recommended by the FDA and other organizations. 1 - 2 $\endgroup$
    – user1975
    Aug 29, 2016 at 13:57

To know how long these people could survive in said scenarios you first need to know how much food is present in each. Then if you are trying to be very accurate try to calculate a tentative total number of calories.

Without rationing (simply maintaining the current body weight) the average man will need roughly 2,000 - 3,000 calories a day and the average woman 1,600 - 2,400. With rationing the average male will need around a minimum of 1,500 to stay fit, so in dire situations going lower is still quite probable. And under loose rationing situations the average woman needs 1,200 calories.

So each of your scenarios will most likely differ greatly, depending on how much food they started with. Also some of your locations, such as the high school could raise the possibility of growing their own food over time if they had access to seeds.

So what you will really need to do is first calculate the amount of food, and how many calories it yields to get the idea of how long your subjects could survive.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .