For people who enjoy trying new recipes, love fresh ingredients or have made resolutions to eat healthier this year, making those changes just got easier.

If you have ever stood in the grocery store produce section and wondered how to prepare that vegetable, Purdue Extension is providing answers to such questions with a scan from a smartphone.

All three of the local farmers markets — two in Columbus and one in Hope — will be utilizing a new Indiana-grown produce information site, Foodlink.

With Foodlink, a card containing a QR code is placed in front of each produce item. The customer simply scans the code with a smartphone, which redirects them to Indiana-grown produce information on that specific item.

“When a person comes to buy and they want to know, for example, what to do with kale, they can scan the code and see what it is, recipes for kale, how to use it, how to store it, what the nutritional value is … All the different components of the food come up when you scan it,” said Harriett Armstrong, health and human sciences educator for Bartholomew County’s Purdue Extension.

If you don’t have a QR code reader, you can download one for free in the app store or find the link through the Purdue Extension Foodlink website.

The benefits are to provide local people with healthier food alternatives while putting more money back in the local economy by helping local vendors and farmers better market their produce.

Local sellers who don’t yet have Foodlink are welcome to enroll at no cost through the Foodlink website.

But Foodlink isn’t the only new feature among local farmers markets this year.

Supplemental Assistance Nutritional Program (SNAP) benefits can now be used at the Columbus Farmers Market downtown. Thanks to grants from the United Way and Reach Healthy Communities, those SNAP benefits can be doubled, Armstrong said.

Along with the farmers market and Foodlink, Purdue Extension has recognized that a growing number of people are preserving foods at home. To help make it easier, they introduced Hoosier Harvest, a home food preservation series that meets each Tuesday evening in June at Columbus East High School.

The workshop-formatted series is designed for both first-time and experienced food preservers. Topics include pressure canning, pickling, jams and more.

“The classes provide the hands-on time to process the food, which class members will then take home,” said Armstrong, who will lead each class.

As more people take on food preservation themselves, it is important to remember that even a slight change in a pressure canner gauge can negatively impact its ability to sterilize foods. To ensure food safety when using a pressure canner, the National Center for Home Food Preservation suggests testing the gauges annually.

Free gauge testing is available through the Bartholomew County Purdue Extensions Office. Call 812-379-1665 to schedule an appointment or drop your pressure canner by the Extension office at 965 Repp Drive, Columbus.

If you go

Summer farmers markets open this weekend in the Columbus area.

Farmers Market of Hope

When: 5 to 8 p.m. today; also every Friday in July; then Aug. 5 and Sept. 2.

Where: Hope Town Square.

Attractions: Several produce vendors, live music and cruise-in.

Columbus Farmers Market

When: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays from this weekend through Sept. 17, rain or shine.

Where: Cummins Inc. parking lot along Brown Street in Columbus.

Attractions: 82 to 92 vendors weekly, including produce, ready-to-eat foods, crafts, arts and more. Also live music.

Information: columbusfarmersmarket.org.

Columbus City Farmers Market

When: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays from this weekend through Sept. 17.

Where: FairOaks Mall parking lot, 2380 25th St., Columbus.

Attractions: 15 vendors offering produce, pork, lamb, specialty breads and other items.

Information: facebook page for Columbus City Farmers Market.

On the Web

You can find Purdue Extension’s Foodlink website at

https://extension.purdue.edu/foodlink/.

Hoosier Harvest

Register for the Hoosier Harvest series on home food preservation by calling the Bartholomew County Extension Office at 812-379-1665 or by visiting extension.purdue.edu/bartholomew.

Upcoming workshops and topics:

June 7 – Boiling Water Processing

June 14 – Pressure Canning

June 21 – Pickling and Drying Foods

June 28 – Jams and Jellies

Cost per person: $10 per class or $45 for the whole series.

Each workshop meets from 6 to 9 p.m. at Columbus East High School, 230 S. Marr Road.

Other Information

Purdue Extension food preservation and storage publications are available for free online at The Education Store at mdc.itap.purdue.edu. Click on Food and Nutrition then Food Preservation and Storage.

You can also visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation out of the University of Georgia Extension at nchfp.uga.edu.

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Kaitlyn Evener is an editorial assistant for The Republic. She can be reached at kevener@therepublic.com or 812-379-5645.