Canned Food Conundrum – Ideas?

Macy M8 comments7946 views


So I had this idea that I could talk to local gardeners and gardening clubs, as well as the food bank and maybe start a program where they can work together and can stores of food for families in need over the winter months.  I know a ton of gardeners who would love to do this but the investment in mason jars to donate is a lot to expect.  So I was thinking I could start a program where the jars and labels were donated to the gardeners to be returned full of canned goods and then basically work on a check out system for families where maybe three jars or however many were handed out and replaced with full jars when returned.   I was wondering if maybe the food bank has a program in place already or if they would be interested in starting one, thinking I could do the leg-work on it.  I know they have a really hard time over the winter especially with Thanksgiving and Christmas in the heart of the down growing months and they depend a lot on monetary donations.  I also know a lot of gardeners who would love for their excess crops not to go to waste and it isn’t a whole lot more to can a few extra jars if you’re already doing it anyway…

So, I called the food bank and they are not able to take home canned foods at all, they can take fresh produce.  I can see some liability issues with this but does anyone have any idea what it would take to get around this?   I would think it wouldn’t be too much to ask a gardener to register an account and sign something that says they wont try to kill anyone with their kind gesture in exchange for a tax write-off or something.  They can get a number and batch the food, if there are any illnesses caused the batch can be recalled.  If they get too many strikes against them maybe they can’t donate or what have you.  I’m just trying to think through ways of shifting liability and making it less of a money heavy burden in the winter months when there are so many people that would love to be able to help in other ways.

Another idea would be to set up several canning stations and maybe once a week have some canning days at the food bank so that things can be done to in a regulated and controlled environment, I certainly think a gardening club or something like that would be up for donating a day here or there to can huge batches of food.   This is just an idea.  I don’t feel like it would be tough to get the mason jars donated.  I feel like it would be SUPER easy to find the gardeners willing to share their bounty for a good cause and it seems very beneficial to those families in need to have some real foods grown and canned in their community, WAY better than some food that gets pushed through… I just need to figure out how to make it happen… does anyone have experience with this?  Does anyone’s food bank allow home canned food?  I wouldn’t mind talking to that food bank that does to see what sorts of rules they have for doing that.  Ok, that’s all for now, I hope everyone had a lovely Labor Day weekend!

And Just cause they are pretty here are some pictures from the weekend of the balloons from the balloon festival over my house!



  1. I could put you in touch with Ame’s mom – Susan Christiansen. She volunteers occasionally with a program like this the LDS church has in Idaho Falls They do boxed food at the “Bishops Store House”, but in Idaho Falls, they do canning – it’s called “The Cannery.”
    If you’d like, you could talk to Susan and find out HOW they do it.

  2. I know in here in Rhode Island there is are very stringent guidelines for canning. We had donated a large batch of our “Grandmas Sweet & Spicy Pepper Relish” (from a 100+ year old family recipe) to a fundraising event at work. We got rave reviews and people were begging for more! Some of our co workers were actually eating straight relish sandwiches!

    This inspired us to try selling some of our canned goods at local farmers markets. After some research we found that any and all recipes must go through all types of testing, acidity, bacteria count, shelf life, etc. All at an out of pocket expense. Around here Cornell University out of New York has a program to help start up/food entrepreneurs and they told us to stop immediately because the FDA could come and take any canned good we had produced and stored!

    There are ways around this issue. The way I understand the loophole, farm kitchens are exempt to this rule and can produce and legally sell canned goods. In some cases I believe has to be a certified farm kitchen. May be worth a shot to see if there is a similar work around in your area too and if any farmers would be willing to “rent” their kitchen. Great idea, sounds like your on the right track to make it happen.

  3. Check out Backyard Harvest here in Moscow. Gathering and gleaning of local produce brought to local food banks. When I worked for byh I taught some canning classes and found interest very low, mostly because the folks who wanted to can were already doing it and the other folks had no interest. I would love to see it work though!! Contact the county extension nutritionist for help. Also contact Katie Painter, Global Gardens (i think) in Boise, also Ariel Agenbroad (u of I extension as well) as I think they are doing work in this similar field.

  4. The University of Idaho has a commercial kitchen that you can rent out to use for canning, baking, etc. so that it is valid and safe for sale. Small businesses who can’t afford their own kitchen can rent it by the hour. I wonder if the food bank would be able to accept food canned in that environment. Might be worth looking into. Here’s an article on it from KTVB:

    Also, the food bank does have the grow a row program that I participate in… they give you seeds, and in exchange you agree to donate some of your garden produce to the food bank.

  5. Totally late to the party, but along the lines of a commercial kitchen, maybe you could have a “canning day,” where people who want some of the excess produce can bring a dozen jars to a “class” where the farmer’s can bring their produce, then the people can can on their own. No liability or worries of poisoning someone, no expense for the farmer (just donating the excess produce), and families learn the skill of canning. You could maybe convince a commercial kitchen to donate some time and do the water bath method using their large pots.

    Just a thought. 🙂

  6. No real way around it. for most food pantries or the like, it has to be prepped in a inspected commercial kitchen. They can’t even take fresh meat, like deer either. and it’s not a if someone gets sick deal, it also protects the person donating IF someone gets sick, for anyone gets sick, they can sue, ad you can loose your house and everything. It’s really a sad state of affairs. I ran into this donating honey. I had 84 hives and had to jump thru hoops, flaming hoops for that, even tho i sold to people, businesses & restaurants. The idea of the classes, to teach OR do self help, if the local church has a kitchen, to show and do a bunch that they take home with them… since many people going to food pantries don’t have the canner, even a water bath one, never mind a good pressure canner. So the use of the equipment can be a big plus.

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