AMES, Iowa – With Americans’ increasing interest in preserving food at home comes growing concerns about whether the resulting food products are safe to eat, given the risk of botulism from improperly canned foods. Half of the reported foodborne botulism cases in the U.S. have been caused by improperly home-canned foods.
Following safe food handling practices and research-based food preservation recipes is a crucial step for preventing this serious, foodborne illness, said Sarah Francis, food and health state extension specialist at Iowa State University. That’s why ISU Extension and Outreach delivers “Preserve the Taste of Summer,” a research-based, food preservation education program. In these hands-on workshops, Iowans learn how to safely preserve food to enjoy throughout the year.
In summer 2022, ISU Extension and Outreach collaborated with Mrs. Wages, a Kent Precision Foods Group brand of home food preservation products, to provide food preservation education to Iowans for free or at a reduced cost.
“Mrs. Wages donated food preservation products and funding to support workshop scholarships,” said Francis, who also serves as interim director of Human Sciences Extension and Outreach.
“This in-kind and financial support removed the barrier that had kept some Iowans from participating in our hands-on workshops. Thanks to the generous support from Mrs. Wages, we were able to connect with and reach new audiences who otherwise would not have received this type of food safety training,” Francis said.
“For over 70 years, Mrs. Wages has been a partner in canning and food preservation. We are committed not only to safe food preservation practices, but also sharing this skill with new audiences. Providing this scholarship allowed us to do both,” said Brianna Kuhlers, senior associate brand manager for Mrs. Wages.
From June through mid-October, 86 scholarships were awarded totaling $3,404.
“We provided food preservation education to those with limited incomes, conducted our first Spanish-language workshop, and hosted more workshops in rural communities. Over the five-month period, ISU Extension and Outreach food preservation training reached 439 adults. This is a 187% increase compared to the same time frame in 2021,” Francis noted.
Preserve the Taste of Summer is providing Iowans with research-based food preservation information that is relevant, understandable, and presented in a way that is appealing to participants.
“The most exciting result of this collaboration with Mrs. Wages is that nearly all who attended a Preserve the Taste of Summer workshop reported that they were likely to preserve food at home,” Francis said.
One participant noted the importance of learning about food preservation from a reliable source. In the workshop evaluation, this individual reported, “Last year I did some basic canning and freezing, but there is a lot of information out there about the process and recipes – books, articles, online websites, etc. It is hard to navigate what works, what doesn't, and what should or shouldn't be done. I appreciate this training and the opportunities for face-to-face trainings to learn from a reliable source and to be directed to additional reliable and safe resources.”