Canning provides families and tribes many benefits: 

  • Preserves food for consumption during winter months 
  • Helps reduce food waste 
  • Saves money for families
  • Generates money for producers and tribes 
In the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, where the tribe’s organic farming program Tsyunhehkwa grows traditional white corn, Three Sisters and other garden vegetables, apples, eggs and bison that are sold to the community, a tribal cannery provides space to preserve many of its foods. In fact, the cannery was built long before the farm started, providing a community space for tribal members to preserve their own foods. 

The community cannery opened in the 1970s with the goal of helping families become self-reliant on their own, homegrown foods. By making appointments to use the cannery, families would have access to equipment, knowledge and assistance from cannery staff. Today, the cannery’s goal is much the same, but its role within Oneida Community Integrated Food Systems has expanded. The cannery is used to process the traditional white corn into soups, mush and other products that are sold at the nearby retail store.  Tribal members still visit the cannery to use its commercial equipment and staff also conduct canning demonstrations throughout the Oneida Nation and in surrounding communities.  
Elders of the Confederated Tribes on Grande Ronde were thrilled to help teach younger generations to can when they formed the Food Bank Canning Group as a way to preserve excess foods that came to the Grand Ronde Community Resource Center and Food Bank. The excess foods were locally grown and would have otherwise gone to waste. The elder who came up with the idea has been canning for 50 years – alongside her mother and grandmother. 
“Part of the thing for the resource center is we’re very big in trying to get clients to self-sustain, preserve foods, feed their families and find ways to stretch their budgets,” said Angela Schultz-McCallister, manager of the Community Resource Center. “This is one way to do that.” The food bank provides jars, lids and basics like sugar and simple syrup and community members worked as volunteers. The group has canned a variety of fruits and vegetables, including beans, cherries, apples and carrots. (Read full story here.)

You don’t need a community cannery to encourage canning among members. Consider organizing canning classes, like one presented in the Fall 2012 by the Salmon Marketing Program of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Thirty-three fishers took part in the workshop that also focused on subsistence and commercial requirements.