Bag It! Packaging Bulk Foods with Nitrogen (177)

pm167_605Nevada County locals Jim Wray and Loraine Webb demonstrate the how and why of packaging bulk foods with nitrogen. They’re using equipment available for community members to use at minimal cost. Jim demonstrates packaging: make plastic bags using a heat sealer, fill with foodstuffs, suck out the oxygen with a small vacuum, then replace the air with nitrogen and seal.

Loraine, organizer of The Neighborhood Readiness Project, has arranged with several locally-owned grocery stores to sell 25 pound bags of grains, beans and other bulk foods at just above cost. Loraine’s vision is our having food caches in every neighborhood in the county, so that, if the trucks stop rolling in an emergency, we’ll have food for ourselves AND to share with our neighbors. Episode 167. [].

Watch videoAudio | iTunes | Janaia’s journal: Storing Bulk Food – for Neighborhood Security


  1. Lilja Gudmundsdottir-Connors says:

    I now have the equipment belonging to the NRP to package the food. However, the sealer will not seal. Any suggestions? I bought a new fuse and replaced the old one, no difference. Thank you for your valuable effort with this program. Thank you<lilja

  2. Hello all..

    Jim and I looked at using dry ice, but opted for earth-friendly nitrogen as it’s not a greenhouse gas (as is carbon dioxide). Also, the volatile nature and difficulties in handling seemed to make CO2 a less than satisfactory choice.

    I’m intrigued by the glass jar/grommet suggestion, as our use of plastic is questionable indeed. It was a compromise we went with in an attempt to keep costs down for communities. The environmental cost of mylar bag production seems prohibitive as well.

    Our county is blessed with an organic grain farmer who does use his silo to great community benefit, though our climate is quite mediterranean. If anyone has knowledge of how ensilage might work in Uganda, please do leave feedback. Neighborhood Readiness Project, however, is encouraging folks to de-centralize food caches and to keep enough very local “emergency” supply on hand to take care of one-another short-term if/when supply trucks stop running for any reason.

    Thanks much for your feedback and interest.
    Loraine Webb
    for Neighborhood Readiness Project

  3. I’ve packaged foods for years in a much simpler way that’s been promoted for years by the Mormon church. You simply put your foods in a bucket type container and lay a piece of dry ice on a wrapped in a paper towel at the bottom of your container of grains or rice or whatever. Put the lid on loosely (never on tight as the dry ice evaporates and expands giving off carbon dioxide). Once the dry ice is gone the container may be sealed. This leaves a carbon dioxide filled container which will kills any residual pests. The carbon dioxide will remain in the bucket as long as the bucket isn’t tipped over (it’ll ‘pour’ out) and the containers are resealable with no waste. Some caution must be used as dry ice can burn your hands but a little common sense goes a long way. Dry ice is sold in most larger grocery stores. I believe the book “Making the Best of Basics” by Stevens covers this in detail. This method is more more affordable and sustainable.

  4. Plastics are permeable to air. You should use mylar bags.

  5. Ed Adamthwaite says:

    Good idea but…
    It uses plastic! Fossil fuel dependant packaging that is unlikely to be recycled. What about using a similar method for glass containers? You then don’t need an impulse sealer or the bags, saving quite a few dollars.
    Thinks… you’ll need a drill, but have self sealing grommet that is placed into the lid of the jar. This can then take the football inflator spike for sucking out the air and inserting the nitrogen.
    The customer can supply their own containers and for a small fee have the grommet fitted. The grommet could be OK for quite a few cycles.

    The only thing that I am not sure about is that instead of being a a partial vacuum with nitrogen, it would be slightly pressurised with nitrogen. My experience with working in an apple coolstore as a child, this wasn’t a problem. Any thoughts on this?

  6. Stuart M. says:

    Interesting show. I was told by an Englishman who frequently traveled to Africa that Ugandans are quite good at growing corn, the problem is storage. The mice and rats, the natural spoilage that takes place in the tropics, all made for big losses in stored corn. The nitrogen storage method might help them with the spoilage problem, but $500 is a hefty investment for the Africans. I wonder if some silo method is more efficient, although they seem to blow up all the time!

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