February is National Canned Food Month

February is National Canned Food Month

Woman standing in front of shelves of home canned food.

Homemade canned preserves 1942.
Photo Credits: UF/IFAS File Photo

In 1795, Napoleon needed a better way to preserve large quantities of food for his troops during the Napoleonic Wars, so his government offered a reward of 12,000 francs for the invention of a new food preservation method. In 1809, Nicolas Appert won that award with his canning technique that used glass containers that were sealed then heated to a set temperature. Peter Durand created the tin canister a year later. These inventions led to the canning materials and processes that are used today to preserve food for people all over the world.

Canned food provides a convenient and often less expensive way to include fruits and vegetables in the diet of many individuals and families. Canned foods are also considered a staple in many pantries because of their shelf life. Commercially canned products may keep the food packed inside at its best quality for 1 to 5 years depending on the type of food. Most home canned foods are able to be stored for up to a year, though there are some exceptions.

Canned goods on a shelf.

Photo Credit: UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones

To make the most of canned foods, keep these tips in mind.

Best by or use by dates on commercial products do not indicate safety. They are estimated dates provided by the manufacturer on how long they believe their product would be at its best quality. The exception to this is for infant formula products that are required to have a “Use-By” date and should not be used after that date.

Avoid cans or jars that are not in good condition. Look for dents, swelling or bulging, leaking, rust, cracks in jars or loose lids. If the food has a foul odor or spurts liquid when it’s opened, do not use it. Any of these could indicate the food may have been contaminated or could contain Clostridium botulinum toxins.

Woman canning in the kitchen.

A woman canning in the kitchen.
Photo Credits: UF/IFAS File Photo

Store canned foods in a cool, dark and dry space. This will help them to last longer and keep the food inside at its best quality. Keep canned foods in an area that is between 50-70°F.

Use canned foods to fill nutrition gaps. Add a can of vegetables to your dinner menu—a side of green beans or carrots can help balance your plate. Try using a can of fruit as a basis for a dessert. Pineapple and cottage cheese, anyone? If you’re concerned about sodium or sugar in canned foods, look for products marked as low sodium or lite for less sugar. Compare ingredient and nutrition labels of different brands or varieties of a product to find what works best for you.

If you can foods at home, make sure you’re following recipes that have been tested for safety. Follow the guidelines in the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, 2015 Revision or find more information at the National Center for Home Food Preservation. You can also contact your local extension office; in Florida, you can find your local office here.



U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library, How Did We Can?: https://www.nal.usda.gov/exhibits/ipd/canning/timeline-table

U.S. Department of Agriculture, AskUSDA, How long can you keep canned goods?: https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/How-long-can-you-keep-canned-goods

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Food Product Dating: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/food-product-dating/food-product-dating

Meet Your FCS Agent – Kendra Zamojski

Meet Your FCS Agent – Kendra Zamojski

Kendra at Purdue University

Kendra during her professional development leave at Purdue University.

Kendra Zamojski is a Regional Specialized Agent in Family and Consumer Sciences. She is based in Quincy, Florida and covers the sixteen counties in the panhandle. Kendra leads the northwest district county faculty in developing districtwide family and consumer sciences programs. Kendra is also currently serving as co-chair of the statewide family and consumer sciences program.

Kendra began her career with Michigan State University Extension in a suburban county in southwest Michigan after completing an internship program in the county office. With a bachelor’s degree in family studies, she intended to continue her education in marriage and family therapy while working as an extension agent. Kendra caught the “Extension bug” and ended up completing her master’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences at Western Michigan University.

Kendra was hired with the University of Florida/IFAS Extension in 2007 leaving the snow, ice, and frigid winters behind. She has served as an agent, a county extension director, and returned to her passion for family and consumer sciences as a regional specialized agent. Kendra works primarily in health and wellness but enjoys the variety of family and consumer science programs. She studied evaluation during a professional development leave in 2018 and has since been passionate about telling the story of how family and consumer sciences programs improve the lives of the people with which we work.

picture of Kendra and her daughter

Kendra and her daughter in St. Petersburg, FL.

Kendra lives in Tallahassee with her husband, daughter, and dog. Kendra and her family enjoy travelling, including playing tourist in the sunshine state and visiting Lake Michigan in the summertime. When not working or managing family activities, Kendra enjoys reading, cooking (not baking), sewing, and being outdoors.

Belt or Booster? How to Keep Your Big Kid Safe

Belt or Booster? How to Keep Your Big Kid Safe

If you’re the parent of a “big kid” between the ages of 5 and 12, you’ve probably scratched your head at some point wondering how, where, and in what they should be traveling. There are more options now than ever! Unfortunately, many parents and caregivers make a dangerous choice, without even knowing they could be putting their kids in jeopardy. Following are some of the options for safe travel with older children, including how and why each might work for you:

Unlike a car seat, a booster is a positioner, not a child restraint. Its main purpose is to keep the seat belt on the child’s strong hips and collar bone. With a booster, the lap portion of the belt runs under an armrest or clip which holds it low on the hips and upper thighs. This positions the lap belt so that it can’t cut into the child’s soft abdomen, causing serious or potentially life-threatening injuries. Most boosters also position the shoulder belt to keep it flat across the collarbone and protect the neck. An updated study of booster seat effectiveness (Pediatrics, 2009) concluded that children ages 4-8 in boosters are 45% safer from nonfatal injuries than children in seatbelts. The study didn’t find any difference in preventing injury between backless and high-back boosters. Some parents prefer to use high-back boosters because they offer some side-impact protection and give their children a place to lay their heads if they fall asleep. Others prefer the convenience of a lightweight backless booster that can easily travel with the child and be moved between vehicles. A backless booster will NOT work if the vehicle headrest comes below the child’s ears because of the danger of whiplash from rear-end crashes. A child can safely move to a booster seat when he/she has outgrown a car seat by weight and height, as long as the child is mature enough to stay in position while traveling. This usually happens between ages 5-7 but depends on the individual child.

Credit: G. Hinton

How do you know when your child is ready to “graduate” to an adult seatbelt? Because the height and depth of seats vary from vehicle to vehicle, and all children are not made exactly alike, there is no specific height or weight guideline. Instead, there is a simple 5-step test as follows:

• Is your child sitting all the way back in the seat?
• Do the child’s knees reach the edge of the seat without scooting?
• Do the child’s feet touch the floor?
• Does the shoulder belt cross the child’s collar bone and not his/her neck?
• Is the child mature enough to stay in position during the entire trip?

If you can answer “yes” to every question, your child is ready to use an adult seatbelt in that vehicle. If not, no matter what your child’s age, it might be best to continue using a booster seat for a while. When a child is too small sit in an adult seatbelt, the lap belt will slide up onto his/her stomach. In a crash, the belt will keep tightening because there is no bone or other object (i.e. the armrest of a booster) to stop it. During the crash, everything has to stop so fast that it causes the belt to put extreme force on the internal organs and spine, causing the organs to rupture and the spine to snap or fracture. This cluster of injuries is called “seat belt syndrome” and can be severe. Using a booster until your child is big enough to fit the vehicle seat eliminates the risk.

A Healthy Table: Virtual Cooking School

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have turned to cooking more meals at home. Cooking meals and eating at home has many benefits. When preparing meals, you can select the ingredients and chooseA Healthy Table place setting graphic element healthy recipes lower in saturated fats, sodium, and sugar. When eating out, we tend to eat more food. You can more easily control your portion sizes when eating at home. Remember to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your main dishes and side dishes. Finally, preparing and eating meals together is not only a fun way to teach healthy eating habits and cooking skills, but it is also a great way to connect with each other at the end of the day.

We invite you to join us for A Healthy Table: Virtual Cooking School. In our virtual cooking school, you will learn how to prepare healthy meals for your family through self-paced online lessons and hands-on cooking activities. You will have opportunities to engage in monthly live virtual cooking demonstrations and interactive learning experiences.

Register before February 9th and save 20% off the ticket price. Early registrants gain access to a bonus class and kick-off event. Tickets are on sale for $19.99 until February 9th and $25 thereafter. Registration will close on February 23. Once registered, you will receive the Zoom class link and the link to the class website. Register here: http://bit.ly/ahealthytable.

The monthly Zoom class events will be held from 6:30-7:30 pm CT/ 7:30-8:30 pm ET on:

  • Tuesday, February 9th: Kickoff Event Available for Early Birds only Program introduction and a sweet, healthy treat demonstration.
  • Tuesday, February 23rd: Lesson 1, Kitchen skills primer
  • Tuesday, March 23rd: Lesson 2, Cooking techniques – baking, grilling, roasting
  • Tuesday, April 27th: Lesson3, Simple dishes – eggs, breads, salads, pasta
  • Tuesday, May 25th: Lesson4, One dish meals – one-pot, slow cooker, packet meals
  • Tuesday, June 22nd: Lesson 5, Entertaining and special occasions – setting a table, appetizers

Come cook with us and set your table for better health.


Benefits of Cooking at Home

Cooking at Home for Healthier Eating

Benefits of Family Meals



Meet Your FCS Agent – Kendra Zamojski

Meet Your FCS Agent – Melanie Taylor

Melanie Taylor

Melanie Taylor, Family & Consumer Sciences, Extension Agent III, Bay County

Melanie Taylor grew up in Virginia. After getting married in January 2009 and wanting to support her husband’s career in Panama City, she officially moved to Bay County. Melanie received her bachelor’s degree from Radford University. She then furthered her education with a M.S.Ed from Virginia Tech in 2004 while working full time for Virginia Cooperative Extension. She followed in her Dad’s footsteps by becoming a 4-H youth development Extension agent and worked with Virginia Extension for over eight years. Upon moving to Bay County, she worked in Gulf County as the 4-H and Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Agent for 10 years. She transferred to UF/IFAS Extension Bay County in December 2019. Her FCS focus areas are health and wellness, prevention of chronic diseases, and strengthening families within our communities.

Melanie at the 4-H booth at the Sunbelt Expo

Melanie is very excited to now work within the community in which she lives and to assist with helping Bay County residents recover from Hurricane Michael and Covid-19 damages. Be sure to contact Melanie if you have any needs in the area of family and consumer sciences. She is ready and willing to answer questions and design programs virtually for now and face-to-face in the future.

Like so many in Bay County, Melanie’s home in the Cove was severely damaged by Hurricane Michael, but she is excited to announce they finally moved back into their repaired home on September 26. She and her family could not be happier (her family includes husband Bryan and their two cats, Sonny and Cali). Outside of work, Melanie is active in the Junior League of Panama City. It is very likely you will see her out and about with her husband at local events.

Melanie Taylor, Family & Consumer Sciences, Bay County

IRS: 2021 Filing Season Begins February 12

IRS: 2021 Filing Season Begins February 12

Taxes, without a doubt, conjure up emotions from elation to dread! Do you owe? Are you getting a refund? Are you uncertain?


This is a significant statement because income tax returns cannot be filed electronically or by mail until the IRS has opened the season.

Please, do not be influenced to apply for a tax refund loan, typically known as a RAL (refund anticipation loan), if you are not in a crisis for the money. An RAL is a loan based on the anticipated amount of your federal income tax refund. Many tax filing services will offer you a RAL if… you file with their service. Your loan amount will be the value of your anticipated refund minus fees and/or interest charges.

Know, too, that your loan will go directly to the lender once the IRS processes your income tax return.

Be VERY careful with refund anticipation loans. An obvious positive attribute of the loan is you get money quickly – before the season even opens. Another, once the lender receives your refund, the loan is paid. But, what happens if your tax refund is smaller than the anticipated income tax return? You now will have an outstanding loan that will need to be paid back.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC or EITC) is a refundable tax credit for low- and moderate-income workers. For 2020, the earned income tax credit ranges from $538 to $6,660. The amount depends on income and number of children; people without kids can qualify, too.

If you qualify for the EITC, you need to know, by law, the IRS cannot issue refunds for people claiming the EITC or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) before mid-February. The IRS cannot release these refunds before February 15, but the IRS is saying to expect your refund by the first week of March. Note, too, the law requires the IRS to hold the entire refund − even the portion not associated with the EITC or ACTC. This law change, which took effect in 2017, helps ensure that taxpayers receive the refund they are due by giving the IRS more time to detect and prevent fraud. 

Now, while waiting for the tax filing season to open, is a great time to get income tax documents together. Once the filing season opens, being organized and prepared will help facilitate a seamless transition to filing your income tax return. The IRS recommends that taxpayers file their returns electronically to reduce errors and receive refunds more quickly.

Filing an average income tax form is also easy. There are many FREE income tax filing sites.

Income $72,000 and below: Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office and they can help you by:

  • Finding FREE federal tax filing on an IRS partner site
  • Finding guided preparation – simply answer questions
  • Providing a link to a FREE Facilitated Self-Assisted (FSA) service with electronic forms you fill out and file yourself

Income above $72,000: Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office and they can help you by:

  • Providing a link to a FREE Facilitated Self-Assisted (FSA) service with electronic forms you fill out and file yourself
  • Helping you learn how to prepare papers for meeting with a tax professional
  • Providing you with basic tax preparation information

Be careful in your decision making when it comes to filing income taxes. Choosing e-file and direct deposit for refunds remains the fastest and safest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a timely refund. It is amazing to know the IRS issues more than 9 out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days.

Source: https://www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free#what