Canning for country and community
In this lesson plan, students will use primary source documents to evaluate the technological challenges of food preservation in the 30s and 40s, compare food preservation in the first half of the twentieth century with today, and consider the political role of food in the community.
A lesson plan for grades 9–12 English Language Arts and Social Studies
Using 4-H and home demonstration documents from the Green ‘N’ Growing collection at North Carolina State University’s Special Collections Research Center, the student will be able to describe the benefits of preserving food as an example of the impact of technological innovation on the daily lives of individuals in the first half of the twentieth century.
The student will examine documents generated by 4-H and home demonstration to discern the historical role of food preservation as a civic activity.
- Does my community affect my life?
- What do I owe my community? Do I owe my community anything?
- Do technological advancements increase our obligation to improve life in the community? The world?
- home front
- The civilian population and activities of a nation whose armed forces are engaged in a war abroad.
- An act of defeating an enemy or opponent in a battle, game, competition, or, in this case, war.
- Organize and encourage people to act in a concerted way to bring about a particular political objective.
- A measurement used for dry goods, equal to sixty-four pints.
- The harvesting or refinement of something natural.
- To prepare fruit for long-term storage by boiling it with sugar. Also to treat or refrigerate food to prevent its decomposition or fermentation.
- To make something free from bacteria or other living organisms.
- A member of a large group of unicellular microorganisms that have cell walls but lack organelles and an organized nucleus, including some that can cause disease.
- Prepare vegetables for freezing or further cooking by immersing briefly in boiling water.
- Perform a series of mechanical or chemical operations on something in order to change or preserve it.
- The height of an object or point in relation to sea level or ground level.
- The continuous physical force exerted on or against an object by something in contact with it.
- freezer locker plant
- Refrigerated storage or warehouse that often also sold dry ice or provided butcher services.
Activity 1. Food production and preservation: Community benefits in difficult times
In this Think-Pair-Share activity, students will explore the efficiencies of food production and preservation as a patriotic activity in North Carolina during World War II. (Visit ReadingQuest for information about Think-Pair-Share.
Provide students with the following readings and resources:
- “4-H and Home Demonstration during World War II,” an essay from the Green ‘N’ Growing website
- “Victory Canning” and “Home Drying,” North Carolina Extension publications from the Green ‘N’ Growing collection
- Images of 4-H club boys and girls holding signs supporting Victory Gardens and 4-H club boys and girls exhibiting their Victory Garden posters (may be printed or displayed using a data projector)
Think: Ask students to think about the question “What is the role of the people on the home front during World War II?” Give them time to read the essay and examine the primary source documents. Students may make notes about their thoughts as they read and they may make note of where in the readings there is supporting evidence for their thoughts.
Pair: Students pair up with predetermined partners to discuss and compare answers. Together the students identify the answers they think are best, most convincing, or unique.
Share: Call on the groups to share their best ideas with the whole class and note their observations on a chart on the board or overhead. You may categorize the ideas according to civilian role (production or preservation, support for the armed service personnel, support for local community, etc.) or ask students to suggest categories after all groups have shared.
There are many possible issues you may choose to discuss in relation to this activity including:
- What activities prepare communities today for disaster relief?
- Should there be international or national and local control of food reserves?
- Are there other commodities that are essential to the food supply and so should the government control those? For example, the food supply is dependent on oil.
- What is the role of the State in ensuring safety?
In 1931 there were requirements statewide to ensure uniform quality and safety standards for canning. See “Canning Fruits and Vegetables.” This circular also includes are directions for doing a demonstration safely.
- How does historic documentation about food production and preservation as a patriotic or community activity compare to concept of Food Democracy? (Food Democracy touches upon issues of choice and dependency and touts the value of eating local as support for farming and to keep people healthy. See Heifer International and Environmental Commons for further information.)
Activity 2. Canning vs. freezing (pros and cons)
- Introduce this section by encouraging students to visually scan the documents and brainstorm about why these pamphlets were produced and needed.
- Discuss with students that new technology is complicated and requires training. Offer an example of a situation in which you were confronted with a new technology and how you learned to use it. Have students volunteer their own examples.
- Have students identify the importance of proper procedure in safe canning and freezing for health and nutrition. List the steps for the procedures on the overhead and discuss the dangers or consequences of improperly preserving food.
- Lead students to discover that freezing in 1947 was relatively new. Compare and contrast the “freezer situation” in a home today with a home in the 40s. Be sure to cover how home freezer units were expensive (as new technology generally is) and how it was common for people rented freezer units.
- Have students complete the compare/contrast matrix and summary questions.
- As a group, discuss and list the costs and benefits of canning versus freezing as a means of preserving food.
Activity extension ideas
- Bring up additional examples of food preservation (irradiation, drying) and consider the costs and benefits of these methods either in small groups or as a class discussion.
- Discuss reasons why people are not as likely to preserve foods today. (Improved technology, decreased costs of home freezer units, mass production, less gardening/farming, etc.)
Activity 3. Food preservation yesterday and today
In this compare/contrast activity, students will consider the following questions:
- What was the impact of new technologies in food preservation on the people (individuals, families, communities) in North Carolina in the first half of the 20th century?
- How might the use of these and newer preservation techniques help people today?
Have students compare and contrast food safety and processing in the 30s and 40s to practices today using the Comparison-Contrast Chart from ReadingQuest. Students will use the Green ‘N’ Growing pamphlets “Simplified Methods for Home and Community Canning,” “Victory Canning,” and “Freezing Foods for the Home” to research the 30s and 40s. And to find details on food safety and processing today, they should use the following North Carolina Cooperative Extension and National Center for Home Food Preservation materials:
- Agriculture & Food: Food Safety & Processing
- How Canning Preserves Food
- National Center for Home Food Preservation
After students finish their charts, they should write an editorial using the following prompt:
Based upon your observations and understanding of food preservation technology over time, develop an idea for a program that can be applied to a current hunger-related issue in your community. Propose this idea to your community through a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
Use the lesson plan A Defining Moment in Editorial Writing to complete the editorial activity.
In addition to food preservation, technological advances in what other areas (general health, hunger and food distribution issues) could improve people’s standard of living and/or alleviate hunger in the world today?
North Carolina curriculum alignment
Social Studies (2003)
- Goal 9: The learner will explore examples of and opportunities for active citizenship, past and present, at the local and state levels.
- Objective 9.03: Describe opportunities for and benefits of civic participation.
- Goal 4: The learner will explore active roles as a citizen at the local, state, and national levels of government.
- Objective 4.06: Describe the benefits of civic participation.
Grade 11–12 — United States History
- Goal 9: Prosperity and Depression (1919-1939) - The learner will appraise the economic, social, and political changes of the decades of "The Twenties" and "The Thirties."
- Objective 9.03: Analyze the significance of social, intellectual, and technological changes of lifestyles in the United States.
- Common Core State Standards
- English Language Arts (2010)
- Grades 11-12
- 11-12.LH.9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
- Grades 9-10
- 9-10.LH.9 Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
- Grades 11-12
- English Language Arts (2010)
- North Carolina Essential Standards
- Social Studies (2010)
Civics and Economics
- CE.C&G.4 Understand how democracy depends upon the active participation of citizens. CE.C&G.4.1 Compare citizenship in the American constitutional democracy to membership in other types of governments (e.g., right to privacy, civil rights, responsibilities,...
United States History II
- USH.H.1 Apply the four interconnected dimensions of historical thinking to the United States History Essential Standards in order to understand the creation and development of the United States over time. USH.H.1.1 Use Chronological thinking to: Identify the...
- USH.H.8 Analyze the relationship between progress, crisis and the “American Dream” within the United States. USH.H.8.1 Analyze the relationship between innovation, economic development, progress and various perceptions of the “American Dream” since...
- Social Studies (2010)