New ‘Library of Things’ food preservation collections benefit Eastern Oregonians

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In Eastern Oregon, a dearth of grocery stores, a challenging climate for food production and the high costs of transporting food create a food security issue for the region’s residents. Additionally, the equipment needed to preserve surplus foods is often bulky, expensive and used only a handful of times per year. As a result, many households decide not to purchase the equipment.

In response, Oregon State University Extension Service faculty in Harney and Wallowa counties partnered with the nonprofit organization Libraries of Eastern Oregon to launch two “Libraries of Things” in the summer of 2023 at libraries in Joseph and Burns. A Library of Things is a collection of useful items that patrons can check out without having to buy them. In addition to the food preservation equipment, OSU Extension faculty created detailed equipment guides, recipes and information on safe practices for preserving food and processing produce or meat for preservation.

The items include:

  • Dehydrators.
  • Vacuum sealers.
  • Pressure canners.
  • Boiling water canners.
  • Fermentation crocks.
  • Kitchen tools for processing.

The items in the collection were purchased through a grant from the Roundhouse Foundation. Extension faculty hosted public workshops in both counties in to celebrate the opening of the Library of Things collections and to introduce patrons to the new equipment. Educational efforts in Wallowa County reached audiences through a hands-on workshop held at the Joseph Public Library that included a tour of the Library of Things room where the equipment is stored, as well as a demonstration using a food dehydrator to make beef jerky.

As a result, interest in building food preservation Library of Things collections in other Eastern Oregon locations continues to grow. OSU Extension presented the outlines of this project at the Libraries of Eastern Oregon annual meeting. Libraries in Pendleton, Hermiston and rural Wasco County have expressed interest in partnering with their local Extension office to bring a Library of Things to their communities.

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