Youth Learn to "Put Food By"

Surabhi Mahajan, a VISTA volunteer with Marion Polk Food Share, tries her hand at canning tomatoes.
Surabhi Mahajan, a VISTA volunteer with Marion Polk Food Share, tries her hand at canning tomatoes.
Master Food Preserver Joeine Barrett washes farm produce prior to the workshop.
Master Food Preserver Joeine Barrett washes farm produce prior to the workshop.

By Mary Stewart, OSU Extension Service 

In pioneer days, preserving extra food to eat later was called “putting food by.” Nowadays, the practice of saving food for eating after the growing season has finished, is called “food preservation.” This summer, youth from Marion County and their families participated in hands-on food preservation workshops and learned to can, freeze and dry part of the bounty they grew on the Marion Polk Food Share Youth Farm at Chemeketa Community College.

The 20 high school-age students grew and some preserved tomatoes, green beans and other produce with instruction from Marion-Polk Food Share staff and OSU Extension Service, Marion County faculty. Several of the youth commented they had never preserved food before. “It’s easier than I thought!” was an opinion shared by several of the students.

By attending the workshops, the budding farmers and food preservers, “learned where their food comes from, how food sustains their bodies, how to handle the food safely from farm to table, and how to save money by growing and preserving their food,” said Tonya Johnson, Family and Community Health faculty for OSU Extension. “By preserving food, we reduce food waste and improve the environment,” she added.

In June, the youth learned how to preserve fruit and make jam. In July, they preserved low-acid produce such as green beans by using a pressure canner and pickling. In August, they preserved tomatoes and canned salsa. “When we cook and preserve our own food, we are able to control the amount of sugar and salt used, making it more natural than some commercially-prepared foods,” said Ms. Johnson.

Ms. Johnson and a dedicated group of OSU Extension Master Food Preserver volunteer used research-based information that taught “how to preserve food that will be safe to eat for ourselves and our families.” Master Food Preservers who co-taught the workshops included: Eileen Harder, Randy Miller-Grasseth, Joeine Barrett, Marci Sandy, Kay Duffey, and Laurie Vande Walle. Find OSU Extension and other approved food preservation resources here.

According to Ms. Johnson, “The cooperative partnership between Marion-Polk Food Share and OSU Extension Service is a natural fit. Each organization works on improving the health of individuals, families, and our community, including a vibrant community food system.  By working together we create a collective impact.”

OSU Extension’s Family and Community Health program is built on community need and Ms. Johnson said there seems to be a real interest in local foods and preserving food safely so people  don’t get sick. Ms. Johnson reminds us to always use research-tested recipes for preserving food to ensure it is safe to eat.   Research-tested recipes are available through the Extension Service and the USDA Center for Home Food Preservation.

Sept. and Oct. Extension Food Preservation/Health Programs in Marion County

Daily ‘til Oct. 14 Food Safety & Preservation Hotline. 1-800-354-7319 (toll free) 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Mon-Fri.

Sat., Sept 16 – Freezing and Canning Corn Salem Saturday Market. Demos 11 a.m., 1 p.m.

Sat, Sept 23 – Emergency Preparedness Get Ready Salem event, Salem. 10:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Sun, Sept 24 – Food Preservation MFP Info Table/Advice – Foraging Faire, Pringle Creek Sustainable Living Center.

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