Preserving Nutritious Foods and Food Safety

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Program Highlight
Flathead Extension
FRTEP - 1862

With the prevalence of diabetes in Native American people and obesity problems nationwide there is a need across the country and locally to increase availability of fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables for families and communities. On the Flathead Indian Reservation there are 650 reported cases of diabetes in the tribal community. Few Native American families garden and
enjoy fresh, local produce due to a lack of knowledge, or a lack of exposure to horticulture practices. While many families dry meat and freeze foods in small amounts, few families have learned to preserve local foods using the hot water bath and pressure canning processes.

Community gardens connect families at the community level where people come together to learn the basics of gardening, tasting different vegetable varieties, and receiving safe cooking and food preservation education. During the summer of 2008 community members gain new knowledge from the garden gate to the table. Targeted communities for a community garden in the spring of 2008 included Elmo, St. Ignatius, Pablo, and Arlee. Through a combined network of partners from Salish Kootenai College Extension (SKC), Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) Elders Program, and Montana State University (MSU)– Flathead Reservation Extension, four community gardens were planted by SKC and MSU extension personnel and volunteers. Gardening was followed by family style dinners with fresh ingredients arranged by SKC and a series of classes in food safety and food preservation with hands-on canning classes from MSU Flathead Reservation Extension.