With more and more students growing their own produce through community and school gardens, it only makes sense that many students are ready to take the next step and “put up” some of those hard-earned veggies and fruits.
To help make sure that these youths are using proper food preservation protocols for safe canning, experts with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences and UGA Cooperative Extension have developed a first-of-its-kind young-person’s curriculum for food preservation.
Since its release last year, “Put It Up! Food Preservation for Youth” has been distributed to more than 1,300 educators across the nation through the National Center for Home Food Preservation, which is housed at UGA and known as the leader in food preservation nationally.
Kasey Christian, who was hired by the center in 2012 to develop the curriculum, wanted the curriculum to link science education with food preservation and to help students develop a life-long, healthy relationship to the food they eat.
“I think that the human connection to nature is so visible and visceral in our relationship to food,” Christian said. “People are really missing out on an endlessly fascinating and rewarding aspect of life if they don't get to grow, harvest, prepare and preserve with their own hands.”
Christian designed the curriculum for middle schoolers, but it is appropriate for high schoolers and students as young as fourth grade.
The curriculum focuses on six different food preservation methods, including boiling-water canning, jams, pickling, freezing, drying and pressure canning. There are detailed directions for each method, and hands-on activities designed to help both beginning and advanced canners master each method are provided.
Not only does the curriculum include step-by-step instructions, reflection questions and experimenting suggestions, each method also includes science-based workbook activities to help students retain the scientific principals they are learning along side their canning skills.
The mix of hands-on learning and STEM fundamentals has been a hit. Within the first six months of its availability, classroom teachers, youth group leaders, home school groups, Extension agents and 4-H leaders representing all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico ordered the curriculum for their students.
“A survey conducted by NCHFP in 2007 suggests that one in five U.S. households canned food in 2004, and I wouldn't be surprised if that portion was increasing, based on the number of questions we receive and the popularity of our online course and blog,” Christian said. “Home, school and community gardens seem to be surging in popularity along with the local foods movement, and preserving the abundant harvests from these gardens is a natural companion.”
The NCHFP encourages the use of the curriculum in youth programs, and with funding from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, “Put It Up!” is available in pdf form for youth programs free of charge.
Anyone from parents and camp instructors to classroom teachers and Extension agents can lead the lessons. Accessing the program curriculum is easy; by filling out a request form, program leaders receive the pdf file for the program along with all of the extra activities and checklists.
For more information about the “Put It Up!” program and curriculum, potential users are encouraged to contact Kasey Christian or Elizabeth Andress at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the NCHFP website at www.homefoodpreservation.org.