Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Canning Center Closed, but Its Fate Not Yet Sealed; Volunteers Are Being Trained to Run the Center after Budget Cuts Canned Its One Employee

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Canning Center Closed, but Its Fate Not Yet Sealed; Volunteers Are Being Trained to Run the Center after Budget Cuts Canned Its One Employee

Article excerpt

Byline: BETH KORMANIK

This time last year, Billie Fiorilli was starting her Christmas baking - more than 1,200 cookies and several loaves of bread - at the city's canning center.

But a sign is posted on the locked doors this year, alerting would-be canners and cooks who use the industrial kitchen that the center is closed for now and is working to "reopen its doors in a limited capacity to the community as soon as possible."

"It's just a real shame," said Fiorilli, who also cans vegetable soup, Brunswick stew and spaghetti sauce at the Westside center.

Technically, the Jacksonville City Council spared the city's canning center in this year's budget. Although Mayor John Peyton had proposed eliminating the center, the council provided $15,000 to continue its operations.

But the council did cut the center's only full-time employee, advising the city to use volunteer labor.

The decision effectively closed the center Oct. 1, the start of the city's fiscal year, because there was no one certified to run it.

Rick Godke, director of Duval County's extension services, said three volunteers will earn certification from the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Agriculture Department, and he hopes to reopen the center in January.

The training process isn't easy. The next four-day course is offered in late November at Clemson University in South Carolina. It's the same training workers at commercial canneries such as Campbell Soup Co. receive.

"We're backed into a corner because we can't offer it [canning services] until we get certification, and we're going to the earliest certification possible," he said.

Godke estimated the cost with tuition, transportation, lodging and meals is $2,000 a person. Volunteer master gardeners will pay the tab, he said. The move seems fitting because one of that group's fundraisers is selling mint jelly its members make at the canning center.

The center is popular with organizations that use the center as a money-making venture by selling the jams, jellies and sauces they make. …

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