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Summary

Chattooga County Family and Consumer Sciences used virtual food preservation workshops to meet the need of home food preservation, specifically canning food safely during a pandemic. Participants from multiple audiences cited significant knowledge change regarding the science-based practices needed to keep their food safe throughout the food preservation process.

Situation

COVID-19 brought many challenges to our citizens. Much of the country was forced to shelter in place. There was an overwhelming focus on growing and preserving one’s food. However, the face – to -face programming which Extension has provided in the past was prohibited due to the Governors recommendations. Social media was flooded with individuals and non-accredited sources posting “how to preserve food at home”, which had unsafe recommendation, according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation recommendations. This led to a triple increase of questions to the Extension office on how to preserve food safely at home. It was evident that these home canners were adapting the directions or procedures, use canning equipment improperly and incorrectly preserve high-risk food items, such as vegetables and other low acid food. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, about 1/3 of home canners feel free to adapt the directions or procedures they are given in their own way which can be hazardous. One of the biggest risks in home canning is when home food preservers don't know the difference between acid and low acid foods thus increasing their botulism risk with open-kettle canning or water bath canning low acid foods (rather than pressure canning). Cost per case of botulism in Georgia is estimated to be $1.4 million. These improper food preservation practices place home food processors at a high risk for botulism and other conditions, which can cause illness, and even death. The majority of foodborne botulism cases in the U.S. are from foods improperly processed in the home (CDC).

Response

The Chattooga County Extension Families and Consumer Science agent developed a series of virtual Home Food Preservation classes that focused on home canning. The classes included: Principles of Home Canning, Jams, Jellies, Preserves and other Sweet Spreads, Pressure Canning (canning of low-acid foods), and Fermentation of Canned Sauerkraut. The virtual series was advertised on social media platforms and attracted people from 4 states with over 200 people registering for the classes. The classes were delivered via zoom and included content for each topic, a live demonstration, and engaged participants using polls and interactive virtual.

Impact

The most popular class was Principles of Home Canning Virtual class with 46% of all registrants in attendance. The next most popular topic was Pressure Canning with 31% of registrants. Regardless of the topic, 100% of participants plan to preserve food after attending the workshop. By the end of each class, 98% of participants gained knowledge in the following food preservation areas: • When to use boiling water canner versus pressure canners - increased by 78% • The risk associated with improper canning techniques - increased by 42% • Products recommended and/or available for canning jars, lids, and canners - increased by 63% • Proper way to handle canned foods during processing and storage - increased by 52% • Where to find trusted resources on food preservation - increased by 89%.

State Issue

Food Safety and Quality

Details

  • Year: 2020
  • Geographic Scope: Multi-County
  • County: Chattooga
  • Location: College Station, Athens
  • Program Areas:
    • Family and Consumer Sciences

Author

  • Thomas, Rebecca B.

Collaborator(s)

CAES Collaborator(s)

  • Maynard, Tiffany Amber
  • Navichoque, Claudia
  • Salmon, Kelli A.
  • Stallings, Kendra
  • White, Zachary
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