April 2, 2004 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Emily Harmon (left) and Sallie Davis (right) make deviled eggs.

After 40 hours of training on seven consecutive Fridays, participants in a University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service pilot program were certified as Master Food Volunteers on March 26 in Kenton County.

Mastery programs exist in several areas from cattle to clothing, but this was the first time a program was offered for food.

“We modeled this after a program at Kansas State University,” said Kathy Roesel-Byrnes, Kenton County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. “Participants are pretty well versed in all areas of food preparation, food preservation and food safety. They also have a big book of reference materials to help them in a lot of ways.”

The volunteers will be “paying back” 40 hours of service over the next year in their communities and around the commonwealth. Some will judge food events and county fairs, others will teach food nutrition and safety classes to 4-H groups.

“Since they are considered certified, they’ll be able to go out on their own,” Roesel-Byrnes said. “They will be able to help extend the Extension service even further.”

Participants learned to identify a variety of fruits and vegetables. Emily Harmon (front) and Walter Webber (back).

Participants came from five counties in northern Kentucky and were instructed by family and consumer sciences Extension agents from eight counties.

Walter Webber sells lighting equipment for television, but his real passion is food. That’s why the Kenton County resident attended Master Food Volunteer training.

“I like cooking and I like volunteering,” he said. “Some of the high points here were learning the nutrient values of food, food preparation and safety. Quite often I cook for crowds and I want to make sure I’m doing it right. I like to volunteer at my church and this way I can tie what I like doing into other opportunities.”

Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program Assistant Sallie Davis believes the training will help her do a better job with her clients. She works with people who have limited incomes on a daily basis and sees the challenges they face trying to put together a balanced diet on a strained budget.

“I’m teaching them how to manage and stretch the food dollar,” Davis said. “So, this just put the icing on the cake so to speak. It will help further my position and help me do the best job with my clients on a one-to-one basis.”

For Emily Harmon, Kenton County family and consumer sciences program assistant, food knowledge was never the first priority in her education or job duties. But now the emphasis of her program is child development and parenting.

“I didn’t have a lot of background with food,” she said. “The biggest thing for me was learning about food preservation. I didn’t know anything about canning or freezing. We literally learned how to can here one day. In my personal life we’re hoping to have a garden this year, so I’m looking forward to canning food from the garden.”

No matter their background, participants all seemed to learn something new that they are excited to pass on to others.

For now, Roesel-Byrnes said the participants will be certified for one year and then program leaders will decide on how to proceed.

“This is the pilot year,” she said. “I’m sure they will probably have some kind of continuing education to remain certified, but it won’t be as much as the initial training.”

Since the program started, Roesel-Byrnes said she’s received many calls asking when they are going to do the training again. She said there are a lot of people who love food and are interested in learning more.


Writer: Aimee D. Heald 859-257-4736, ext. 267
Source: Kathy Roesel-Byrnes 859-356-5133