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USDA Selects Kansas State University to Improve Child Nutrition Safety

Press Release
Release No.
FNS 0015.17
Contact: FNS Press Team

Washington, DC, Dec. 18, 2017 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has selected Kansas State University to direct the Center for Food Safety in Child Nutrition Programs. The research resulting from this partnership will help improve food safety across all of USDA’s child nutrition programs, which serve billions of meals to children each year.

“Ensuring food safety in meals served through child nutrition programs is a priority for USDA,” said Brandon Lipps, Administrator of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). “The Center for Food Safety in Child Nutrition Programs at Kansas State University provides valued leadership in advancing food safety research and practices that equip child nutrition program operators with the tools they need to serve food safely.”

The announcement is part of USDA’s continuing commitment to ensuring all Americans have access to safe and nutritious food. The three-year, $1.8 million cooperative agreement leverages K-State’s multidisciplinary food safety research programs, which include more than 50 nationally and internationally recognized faculty from five colleges and 13 departments.

“We are ecstatic that USDA recognized the expertise and capacity of our faculty in selecting the College of Human Ecology at Kansas State University to continue to host this multidisciplinary center,” said Dean John Buckwalter. “The College of Human Ecology is proud of this center and the important work that it does.”

The award is a continuation of former Center of Excellence for Food Safety Research in Child Nutrition Programs, awarded to K-State in 2011. The Center uses an interdisciplinary team approach to disseminate food safety solutions to school nutrition directors and operators, scientists, policymakers, educators, and practitioners. Research areas are prioritized through the cooperative agreement with FNS’s Office of Food Safety. Proposed future research includes:

  • identifying the barriers and enablers to a food defense management plan implementation
  • prioritizing food safety needs in childcare settings,
  • identifying food safety risks associated with specific food production methods, and
  • advancing food safety practices in Farm to School programs

Center leadership noted that “while child nutrition programs are consistently ranked among the safest of food service environments, there are still critical needs that must be addressed through evidence-based research. The existing center has laid a strong foundation to address these needs, and we are excited that USDA has recognized the quality of research already completed and has selected Kansas State to continue with the new center.”

During the previous funding cycle (2011 to 2017), the center directed 14 studies that informed and improved food safety in the child nutrition field, including a national assessment of health inspection reports, identification of food safety regulations for childcare programs, audits of onsite food safety plans and practices, a national survey of food allergy management, and the impact of cooling techniques on microorganism growth in commonly served foods. Technical reports for all of the completed studies are available online at

In addition, the center directly reached more than 200,000 school nutrition professionals through presentations and engagements at affiliated venues. The center’s hallmark food safety program, Serving up Science: The Path to Safe Food in Schools has shared science-based food safety solutions with over 300 participants in the last five years, potentially impacting more than 3.3 million children served by the National School Lunch Program.

The center will be co-directed by Kevin Roberts, Ph.D., associate professor of hospitality management and Kevin Sauer, Ph.D., RDN, LD, associate professor of food, nutrition, dietetics, and health, with leadership support from Carol Shanklin, Ph.D., RD, professor and dean of the graduate school. They are joined by Paola Paez, Ph.D., research associate professor, Kerri Cole, project coordinator, and graduate research assistants Michelle Alcorn, M.S. and Tracee Watkins, MBA.

For more information on Kansas State University’s Center for Food Safety in Child Nutrition Programs, visit

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which together comprise America's nutrition safety net. For more information on FNS assistance during times of disaster, visit


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Page updated: March 06, 2023