Demand grows for UC Master Food Preserver classes
Although UC Cooperative Extension started offering the program in a few counties in the 1980s, its parent organization UC Agriculture and Natural Resources recently designated it as a statewide Master Food Preserver Program.
UC Master Food Preservers are volunteers who teach people in their communities about food safety and how to preserve food. Certification entails about 50 hours of instruction and a commitment to volunteer service to the program.
In the fall, UC Cooperative Extension held a course to train and certify UC Master Food Preservers in Los Angeles.
“I had 86 applicants for 18 spots,” said Drusilla Rosales, a UC Cooperative Extension advisor who oversees the program in Los Angeles County. “It's very much in demand. I get requests almost daily from people who are either looking for a class or wanting to become certified as a UC Master Food Preserver.”
“People are chomping at the bit for this course,” said Virginia Bolshakova, UC Cooperative Extension director for San Mateo and San Francisco counties, who is trying to build the local Master Food Preserver Program slowly. “I have a feeling we're going to have to turn away 75 percent of the people that apply this time around! Our phones are ringing off the hook about this program.”
The program is currently located in 16 counties and expanding.
“We are hiring a staff person to move things forward and expect to have more resources for existing UC Master Food Preserver programs in the near future,” said Missy Gable, UC Cooperative Extension statewide Master Food Preserver Program co-director and UC Master Gardener Program director.
Most of the 46 MFP volunteers are in west Los Angeles and hold workshops at farmer markets, do demonstrations at community gardens and staff booths at the Los Angeles County Fair. They have begun reaching out to low-income residents and high school students.
“Some of our UC Master Food Preserver volunteers are working with high school students,” said Rosales. “A lot of schools now have gardens and one of the high schools has a culinary arts program and a beautiful new kitchen to prepare students for careers in the food industry. MFP volunteers have been teaching students how to dehydrate herbs and cook with herbs and dehydrate kale to make kale chips. They are also teaching jams and jellies classes.”
In Orange County, UC Master Food Preserver volunteers are working with UC Cooperative Extension's 4-H Youth Development Program to create a Junior Master Food Preserver Program for youth. One goal of the program would be to give students an opportunity to earn a certificate in food preservation that they can put on college or job applications.
In the video below, Missy Gable, talks about plans for UC Cooperative Extension's statewide Master Food Preserver Program.
To watch Susan Algert, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, demonstrate safe canning practices in a video, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeoymcsLWlg.