By Billy Mitchell, NFU Food Safety Training Coordinator
Farm to school programs continue to grow in popularity, with some schools taking part in hyper-local sourcing by using school gardens and farms to provide students with opportunities for taste testing and hands-on learning. Teachers tending these school plots may ask themselves, “how do we grow the best tasting produce while following food safety practices to keep our kids safe?” Thankfully, teachers are well-primed to be produce safety professionals in the school garden. Even before COVID 19 hit, many had lots of practice cleaning and sanitizing sticky surfaces, reminding students to wash their hands, and encouraging sick kids to stay home and come back to learn when they were happy and healthy. For most teachers, the A-B-Cs of good classroom management line up with some of the G-A-Ps (Good Agricultural Practices) of farming—Always Be Cleaning.
The best teachers love to learn and have been signing up to receive education outside of the classroom on food safety on ways to improve their cleaning and health and hygiene practices. Some have joined growers at Produce Safety Alliance Grower Trainings, while others have attended sessions about food safety at Farm to School conferences. Recently, teachers in the Dougherty County School District, with support from the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District and the National Farmers Union Foundation, attended a webinar on practical food safety practices in school settings. Topics of conversation included how to wash lots of hands quickly, ways to lower cross contamination risks (and how to keep dirt in the garden and not in classroom), as well as the how, where, when, and why of washing school garden produce. A similar group of educators, school nutrition directors, community gardeners, and farmers attended a session at the Farm to School and Early Care and Education Conference to hear more about the steps growers take to lower risks on the farm to learn useful tips they could take back to their schools and gardens for use with their students— our future farmers and growers.
Following good agricultural practices and keeping communities safe and healthy is a team effort—students, teachers, and growers all have a role to play. The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), the National Farm to School Network , and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Office of Community Food Systems have developed a new Bringing the Farm to School training program to help provide schools and farmers with sourcing and produce safety information. The training, which is designed to help increase sales to schools for farmers and expand farm to school activities for students in schools and communities across the nation, will help ensure our schools stay well-fed while our growers and school staff continue to take steps to keep everyone safe.
To keep up to date with the Bringing the Farm to School program, visit the Farm to School website. For more food safety resources, please visit the Local Food Safety Collaborative website along with the Food Safety Resource Clearinghouse for a curated source of food safety guides, factsheets, templates, and more. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on the latest food safety news.
This project website is supported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award 1U01FD006921-01 totaling $1,000,000 with 100 percent funded by FDA/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by FDA/HHS, or the U.S. Government.
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