National Canned Food Month

Yes, I’m sure you TOTALLY knew that the month of February is National Canned Food Month. To celebrate it, we shared helpful hints and tricks about canned goods on Facebook or Instagram throughout last month. Because canned food items are so important to our mission, we decided to compile more educational information in this article. Let’s have a chat about canned foods!

A Quick History Lesson

The history behind canning is actually more fascinating than you might expect. In 1750, the French government was facing the arduous challenge of providing food to their troops. At the time, the four food preservation methods being used (salting, drying, sugaring, and smoking) were good; however, these methods were not successful in preserving foods for long enough periods of time. Because a war was occurring, a method that could preserve foods through winters and on long treks was necessary. The French government offered a monetary reward to anyone who could create a preservation method that wouldn’t spoil and could be transported. Their prayers were answered in 1810, when a man named Nicolas Appert created canning as an effort to find a better method to preserve foods. He used glass bottles and filled them with various foods such as meats, fruits, and vegetables, then proceeded to seal the bottles and place in boiling water to cook the contents, which resulted in successful preservation. By boiling the glass bottles, it not only cooked the contents, but killed the toxin ‘botulism’ which causes food spoilage and food-borne illness. The only issue with Appert’s methods were that the glass bottles often shattered during the boiling process. Later on, an Englishman named Peter Durand created the “tin can” that we all know today and implemented Appert’s canning methods in order to create canned foods![1]

Cool, right?

All of this being said, you may still be wondering…

Why should I care about canned foods?

Well, contrary to myths and misconceptions, canned foods can have the same or similar nutritive value to both frozen and fresh foods! The fruits and vegetables used in canned goods are picked at peak freshness, so when you can them, you are essentially freezing (well, technically boiling!) their nutritive profile in time![2] Also, canned foods are incredibly convenient, especially if you’re someone who struggles to incorporate fruits and vegetables in their diet. Making a stew/soup? Dump a can of corn and a can of beans in there. By doing that, you will add protein, fiber, a variety of vitamins and nutrients, and healthy carbohydrates to your meal!

Need a little more convincing?

Aside from the nutrition related pros, what about the pro for your wallet? According to a study performed by researchers at Michigan State University, they found that canned versions of foods could be 80% cheaper compared to fresh foods and 50% cheaper than frozen foods.[3] Canned foods can be sold cheaper even though they may have the same nutrition profile as fresh or frozen foods because they can last at room temperature indefinitely, as long as they’re in good condition! When buying or receiving canned goods, just be sure to check for any rusts or dents as this may indicate that the food has spoiled.[4]

Now that you see why National Canned Food Month is so awesome…

How can you continue celebrating National Canned Food Month?

#1. Donate, donate, donate!

The SLO Food Bank works tirelessly to provide enough food to people who need it in our community. On average, in a single month the SLO Food Bank provides 30,000 people in our county with food and distributes about 4 million pounds worth of food each year.[5] To celebrate National Canned Food Month in the best way, start your spring cleaning early and donate your canned goods! If you’re not located in the San Luis Obispo area, consider donating your canned goods to your local canned food drive, community center, or church. Typically, there are more hungry people than you realize, and your donation will do lots of good!

#2. Try canning at home.

Now, this may sound intimidating, but it isn’t as bad as it seems! Before writing this blog post, I had never even thought about canning something on my own. However, there is a satisfaction I always receive from making my own food, and I doubt that canning my own fruits and vegetables would feel any different! You will need a little research to get you started, so I recommend Marisa McClennan’s “A Beginner’s Guide to Canning” from seriouseats.com. Happy canning!

#3: Make some recipes with canned goods!

Show off what you’ve learned by either cooking with store bought, donated, or homemade canned goods! Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, I’ll give some ideas! I got all of these recipes off of Taste of Home’s website, but if you want other ideas, there are hundreds of other recipes out there!

Breakfast Lunch Dinner Dessert
Sausage Tortilla Breakfast Bake Taco Bowls Contest-Winning Hearty Hamburger Soup Homemade Cherry Crisp

– By Ashley Gardoni, Dietetic Intern, Department of State Hospitals, Atascadero

P.S. (How many times do you think I said ‘canned food’ in my post?)

References

Ellis, C. E. (2020, April 8). Are canned foods nutritious for my family? EatRight. Retrieved February 1, 2022, from https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/are-canned-foods-nutritious-for-my-family

Gravely, P. by M., Schaffner, D., Alex, Laura, Roland, K., Gabriel, N., Demeo, margaret, Weaver, B., Still, S., Patricia, Bonnie, Dona, Stute, L., Morales, M., Hoeft, J. S., Debbie, Pong, M. K., Kathy, !mac, K., … Perez, M. (2017, February 21). Before You Toss Food, Wait. check it out! USDA. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2013/06/27/you-toss-food-wait-check-it-out

Knudson, S. M.- B. (2012, February 13). Nutrition & costs comparisons of select canned, frozen and fresh fruits and vegetables. Center for Economic Analysis. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/nutrition-costs-comparisons-canned-frozen-fresh-fruits-vegetables

McClellan, M. (2019, October 10). A beginner’s Guide to canning. Serious Eats. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://www.seriouseats.com/how-to-can-canning-pickling-preserving-ball-jars-materials-siphoning-recipes

Nicolas Appert (c1750 – 1841). Mendel Chapter 4. (n.d.). Retrieved February 2, 2022, from http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/bc/ahp/MBG/MBG4/Appert.html