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Food Safety and Risk of Foodborne Illness at a Food Center Extension: Toolkit for Front-line Volunteers

Background: Foodborne illness is a serious public health issue. One in six Americans has an episode of foodborne illness each year and over 50,000 are hospitalized. Food distribution centers are instrumental in decreasing food insecurity, however, some of the food donated is expired or may be damaged leading to increased risk of foodborne illness. Purpose: The purpose of this project was to educate front-line volunteers at a local food center regarding food safety. Methods: A toolkit was developed to teach food safety to the front-line volunteers. Seven classes were given to front-line volunteers including a pre and post intervention survey to evaluate if teaching and objectives were met. Reports of foodborne illness by recipients of the food center as well as number of toolkits given to the extension were also tracked. Results: During the seven classes given over a two-month period, participants had a greater than 25% increase in learning regarding safety and foodborne illness as measured by the pre and post intervention survey given. Fifteen copies of the educational toolkit were given to the extension as well as pamphlets regarding dates on packages and shell-life of common foods. Furthermore, there were no increases or reports of foodborne illness from the recipients and food center’s extension. Conclusion: Front-line volunteers at the local food distribution centers were effectively taught food safety and how to prevent foodborne illness. Developing a toolkit for front-line volunteers to use on food safety and foodborne illness and providing on-site teachings enhancing the knowledge of this high impact population resulting in strong public health regarding food safety.