Roanoke Revealed

What is it Wednesday? Master Food Volunteer

What is it Wednesday? Master Food Volunteer

The Master Food Volunteer program began in Virginia in 2009. It’s based on material originally developed by the Kansas State University Research and Extension Service.

According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension website, which sponsors this program in this State, “The Master Food Volunteer Program helps Extension reach more Virginians with up-to-date, research-based knowledge on food preparation, nutrition, food safety, and physical activity.”

What could this mean for you? Basically, it’s similar to the Master Gardener program, but based on eating vs. growing research and requires a much less rigorous time investment. The program entails 30 hours of training be completed prior to “graduating”, then 30 hours of volunteer time reciprocity to be completed within a year’s time. Training and time requirements are less in subsequent years. There are also additional opportunities for training and activity, including day-long canning workshops.

If you’re interesting in learning more about nutrition, healthy eating, foodborne illness concerns, smart cooking, the history of the Cooperative Extension, creative recipe substitutions for healthier meals, current government dietary recommendations and surprising facts about some of the food we eat, the education you get will pay dividends. Plus, you’ll likely forge friendships with fellow volunteers as you have fun learning together.

Master Food Volunteers are asked to submit an application (know Social Security number and birthdate are required, no exceptions, so if you have an issue with this, no sense wasting time going through the bulk of questions prior to being surprised by this toward the end).

In addition, there’s a participation fee (currently $90 in Roanoke) to cover the cost of meals and supplies provided during and after training. Extensions in Virginia are forbidden from using funding provided for volunteer development, so local offices cover the cost of education and materials through this fee charged to participants.

Volunteers are then required to be available at designated training facilities and times (you’ll know the locations and schedules prior to submitting information required to participate) for about 20 hours of onsite training with another 10 hours of web-based modules and quizzes. The latter allows flexibility.

Once you’re done with training, you can either create your own programs (these must be reviewed and approved) or help serve existing needs by being paired with Cooperative Extension staffers initially. Most volunteer activities involve presentations or demonstrations. The Extension schedules a number of events annually. Volunteer needs with easy sign up features are featured on the calendar located on the members’ only online interface.

Some train as Master Food Volunteers with specific customized programming ideas in mind – particularly academicians. While all initiatives must be vetted and signed off on, the program’s pretty flexible about allowing innovative volunteer ideas.

If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity that offers flexibility and an inexpensive education, this could be a fun way for you to learn a bit and give back a lot. The segments of the population you touch will enthusiastically appreciate what you share. The Roanoke contact for this program is Kimberly Butterfield, MPH, who can be called at (540) 772-7524 (office) or (540) 339-2630 (cell). You can also reach her via e-mail: mskimb8 at Her offices are at 3738 Bramleton Avenue SW in Roanoke (County).

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