By Kathryn Washburn Breighner
One of the many reasons for cooking is to share the food with friends and family. Sharing food also means sharing with those who don't have food which is what I had in mine this month when our apple orchard produced an abundance of apples.
Because I love to can, I came up with an idea to pick and can our apples into applesauce for the Harbor Springs Food Pantry. This wasn't an easy accomplishment as the Food Pantry required a licensed kitchen, a federally certified canning expert, and appropriate labeling on the jars. The licensed kitchen required liability insurance and a State Health Department certified food safety expert on hand.
All of the hurdles were jumped and 11 of my friends joined me on Monday in the licensed kitchen that is in the same building as the Food Pantry. More than 100 families were at the Food Pantry while we cooked the applesauce--the building smelled heavenly. After six hours of work, we canned 67 quarts of applesauce and put them on the shelves of the Food Pantry.
Then came one more hurdle: while we were canning, Feeding America notified our Food Bank that the State Department of Agriculture wouldn't allow us to donate the applesauce. The Food Safety official actually gave us the wrong reason: she said that Michigan's Cottage Law required a "cannery waiver" for the kitchen we cooked in. Michigan's Cottage Law is for home based businesses, those not in a licensed kitchen, and doesn't allow any canning except for jams and jellies.
When I called the State Agriculture Department, a different story unfolded. To donate or sell canned goods like our applesauce, we needed to be in a kitchen licensed for commercial processing of food. Our kitchen did not have this $175 permit. Our Food Pantry--so excited at what we had done and now devastated at this obstacle--told us they could not give our lovingly prepared applesauce to their clients.
So we changed directions: instead of creating applesauce, we created applesauce paperweights! Yes, paperweights! The Agriculture Department does not control how paperweights are made. The 67 quart jars are labeled "Applesauce TLC Paperweights. This item is intended ONLY for use as a paperweight and is NOT intended for human consumption."
It used to be that we could easily help people. Food should not be wasted when people need it. That was the intent of this project. It didn't work out that this food could be shared but we're helping in a different way with our gorgeous applesauce paperweights. We will do this again--in a kitchen with the right paperwork!