Preserve Foods Safely with New ISU Extension Program

AMES, Iowa – With a new program from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, gardeners will learn updated and safe methods for canning and other types of food preservation. Preserve the Taste of Summer provides both online courses and hands-on workshops to adults interested in learning how to safely preserve foods.

Preserve the Taste of SummerAccording to Sarah Francis, an Iowa State University assistant professor and extension nutrition specialist, the program is based on the Master Food Safety Adviser program from Colorado State University Extension. ISU Extension nutrition program specialists received training on the Colorado curriculum last summer. Afterward, they decided to create a revised, Iowa-appropriate version. The website was launched July 29.

Preserve the Taste of Summer includes eight online lessons that provide background information on safe food preservation. To participate in a hands-on workshop, a participant first must complete two lessons on general food safety practices and canning basics along with one or two subject matter lessons.

“Our intent is that people will come in ready to can, or ready to freeze or dehydrate their foods, and not need two or three hours of discussion before we begin,” Francis said.

The need for a food preservation course arose out of an increase in calls to the ISU Extension Families Answer Line. According to Francis, the calls concerning preserving food went from 3,200 in 2009 to 4,200 in 2010.

“There’s a national movement for local foods and sustainable agriculture, and food preservation goes nicely with that,” Francis said. “Food preservation is a way to enable eating locally year-round.”

According to Holly Van Heel, ISU Extension nutrition and health specialist, Preserve the Taste of Summer addresses three main trends:

  • First, due to the economy, more people are gardening and many communities have created community gardens.
  • Second, Iowans are showing an increased interest in reviving safe canning, a skill that has skipped a generation.
  • Third, with an increasing prevalence of food allergies, consumers want to know where their food comes from and what it contains.

“We want Iowans to gain the knowledge of safe food practices, which is why we have the general overview as a requirement,” Francis said. “We also want them to be able to identify safe recipes that are tested and also to understand that there is a risk to food preservation. We want them to know the steps to avoid those risks.”

The main issue this program addresses is preserving food safely. “Some processing techniques regarding canning have changed. You can learn how to preserve food on the Internet, but unless the methods are approved and researched, they aren’t necessarily safe,” Van Heel said. “There are tougher bacteria now, like the new strain of E. coli, and that’s part of the change that creates the need for safe preservation.”

Iowa can choose from several program options. For more information on lessons, workshops and preservation methods, visit