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It wasn't until I ran across the old images from the U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War at the Library of Congress website that I had ever heard of such a thing.

Women preparing corn outside a community canning kitchen in Atkins, AR in 1935

Arkansas community canning kitchen, August 1935

According to Rethinking home economics: women and the history of a profession (Stage and Vincenti, publ. Cornell University Press, 1997), community canning kitchens sprang up in many areas across the United States during the Depression and continued in operation into the World War II era. "Community gardens and canning kitchens were excellent ways to assist unemployed families without the shame that usually accompanied accepting relief." (See page 161.)

When my son was very young and I was a stay-at-home mom, I grew a garden and canned for several years, sharing the chore with my next door neighbor. (We'd take turns heating and messing up each other's kitchens. The results were wonderful and very satisfying.)

But my canner was not nearly the size of the one in this Johnson Co., AR community canning kitchen:

Interior of community canning kitchen in Johnson Co., AR - August 1935

As I was preparing to write this entry, Google searches revealed that there may be a resurgence in the concept of community canning kitchens today.

Oh, those cycles...they just keep coming around, don't they?

Date: 2011-03-24 11:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The knowledge and ability to preserve food from one season through the next is a vanishing art. Honestly, the conceptual planning needed to plant a garden that will feed your family seems to be as well.

Date: 2011-03-24 02:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My parents (born in the early 1920s) used to reminisce about community canning kitchens when I was a kid, especially during family canning marathons. Some Granges still have them, at least in the Pacific Northwest, and they're used by Grange members to hold canning bees.

I need to get back into canning. We're preparing a room in the basement to use as a summer canning kitchen, since the house gets so darned hot when the outdoor temp cracks 80. We may not have it ready in time for this summer, but by next summer I'll be making jams and pickles and chutneys again.

Date: 2011-03-29 05:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] (from
Fascinating. I know my mother's family relied heavily on the canned goods her grandmother and aunts put up. Without that food, they might well have been using a community kitchen as well.

Date: 2012-09-24 12:53 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
This is really neat. I never heard of community canning kitchens, but I love these photos. Love the concept too. - - Margo, Thrift at Home


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Dee Burris Blakley

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