Additional Nutrition Education Information

Family Literacy Participants’ Increase Food Safety Skills

Situation: Literacy Volunteers Chippewa Valley (LVCV) Family Literacy Program is a community-based literacy program. Participants are from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds. Their children participate in Early Childhood Education while parents gain English language skills. A critical aspect of healthy eating is keeping foods safe. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year approximately one in six Americans suffer from foodborne illness (cdc.gov/foodsafety).  Since so many families are affected by foodborne illness, Eau Claire County Wisconsin Nutrition Education Program (FoodWIse) teaches clients about food safety risks and specific actions families can incorporate to reduce foodborne illness. ECC FoodWIse partnered with Family Literacy to pilot a program to teach food safety. The food safety knowledge and safe food handling practices attained by parents were to be used to improve household food safety practices and improve job opportunities.

Response: Thirteen students from the Family Literacy Program participated in over 25 hours of FoodWIse food safety education. Educators taught food safety education using the research-based ServSafe Starters Food Safety online training, along with hand-on activities. Participants practiced food safety skills such as proper hand washing, food surface sanitizing, proper cooling, first-in first-out food storage and cross-contamination prevention.

Results: The online ServSafe Starters Food Safety Certification is a basic food safety certification recognized by food service employers. It provides the participants with a food service employment advantage. All 13 participants who took the food safety program passed the online certification. To practice their food safety skills, participants prepared two meals. The first meal was prepared at Family Literacy’s commercial on-site kitchen.  A UW-Extension intern, with food service background, critiqued the participants’ food safety procedures and after the meal debriefed the participants on what was done well and what could be improved. The final project was to prepare a meal for over 150 community members at The Community Table, our local soup kitchen. FoodWIse educators observed participants’ increased confidence and food safety skills while preparing the second meal.

Since the training, three participants applied for food service related jobs. One participant reported that he attained employment due to his ServSafe Starters certification. He also reported that his manager now wants him to complete the ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification. Two participants, who applied for food service jobs, gained positions in other fields. A Family Literacy teacher reported that the participants said they were able to apply and be interviewed successfully for their jobs due to the confidence they gained from participating in the food safety program. Another participant plans to apply soon at a local restaurant. The restaurant manager told her he is looking to hire a bi-lingual employee who speaks Spanish and has ServSafe certification. All 13 participants said that since the training, they handle food more safely in their home, especially raw poultry and meat. After program completion, one participant reported that he always cleans the counter after cooking raw food, and is much more careful about cooling and heating to correct temperatures. All other participants agreed they are doing the same. They also are sharing their food safety knowledge with family and friends. One participant noticed that the sensory sand table in their children’s learning center was so close to the eating area that sand got on the eating utensils. The parent requested that the sand play area be moved farther away from the eating area, which was done. Participants report feeling more confident, capable and engaged in their community.  The pilot project was featured in the 2010-2011Wisconsin Literacy annual report.

ECC FoodWIse staff – October 2011