Community Kitchen Freezing and Vacuum Packaging
In a 2016 study of fresh food loss on Vermont farms, Salvation Farms Director Theresa Snow and her colleague offered insights into farmer production problems. They extrapolated from their survey results that about 14.3 million pounds (6.5 million kg) of vegetable and berry losses occur on Vermont farms every year. Farm food problems included market saturation of fresh zucchini, lack of available help, not enough storage, blemishes on edible produce, fewer customers at farmers markets, and deterioration of produce in storage while waiting for a future market. Farm fresh produce waste problems, however, can be a training opportunity for community kitchens.
My interest in frozen food processing began after working on a community supported agriculture (CSA) vegetable farm in the late 1990s, where excess produce was composted, left to rot, or fed to pigs. To me, a retired farmer and former family and consumer science teacher, these farm food waste issues shouted opportunities for addressing today’s food waste and healthy food challenges through freezing.
My response to this waste was to design and build a kitchen in 2000 (inspected by New York State Agriculture and Markets) to explore value-added processing. The next year the Cornell Food Venture Center approved several frozen and vacuum-packed procedures I had developed. Boil-in-bags are used for blanching vegetables. After cooling, the vegetable broth is drained off and frozen to use to cook grains or to include in soup kits. Cut vegetable pieces are weighed, put into labeled 3 ml bags, vacuum sealed, and frozen. The vegetables are combined with separately packed cooked dry beans, cooked whole grains, savory sauces, and spices as freezer meal kits....
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