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OSU Extension To Update Food Preservation Curriculum

CORVALLIS, OR -- Oregon State University’s Extension Service will use a new federal grant to expand food preservation classes in tribal communities. 

For more than 100 years, OSU Extension has offered food safety classes based on scientific research. But Food Security and Safety Program Manager Jared Hibbard-Swanson says it excluded knowledge developed over hundreds of generations, "In certain communities, when we come from the scientific perspective and say ‘this is the right way to do things; this is the only safe way to do things,’ that can sometimes clash with traditional practices and traditional knowledge." And, he says, much of the USDA research used for the curriculum was developed in the 1940s and ‘50s in Georgia. "There’s not a lot of foods specific to the Northwest that are mentioned in there."

Danita Macy is the Extension Service's Urban Native Indigenous Programs Manager in the Portland area. She says food preservation techniques developed by tribal communities are safe and should be recognized, "Traditional ecological knowledge is science. It’s just called by a different name in different groups." She notes the major time commitment required for the Master Food Preserver course puts it out of reach for many in outlying areas. It's also only offered in a handful of locations once a year, making it inaccessible to many of Oregon’s indigenous people, "They also have the right to the certifications and knowledge that everybody else has. But because we were put on reservations so far from everywhere, it’s hard to gain access when those classes are available."

Oregon State University received an $833,000 grant to develop new, more inclusive curriculum for Oregon's tribal and Pacific Island communities. Olivia Davis, with the Jefferson County and Warm Springs extension office, says they're working with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Culture and Heritage Committee to customize lessons for its people. "Every tribe has a different feeling and guidance on what you do with your traditional foods," says Davis, "And Warm Springs doesn’t share that out with non-tribal members."

Hibbard-Swanson says there has been a push in recent years to update curriculum and make it more accessible. "Home canning, home food preservation is not just a hobby for the affluent who want to give nice stocking stuffers. It actually is crucial to food security, to food sovereignty, to people having access to the foods that are healthy, nutritious and significant to them." He says this new grant will help instructors strike a delicate balance where, "Traditional practices are celebrated and respected. And, at the same time, as those food types change and technologies change, there’s a question about safe adaptation of tradition, as well." 


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