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The current culture of your school community may not value food safety, perhaps because community members don’t have the necessary knowledge or skills, or current systems don’t support desirable behaviors, or, maybe community members simply lack motivation to practice safe behaviors. You may encounter community groups who want to use your kitchen to prepare large quantities of food for community events, or you may have school staff that wants to use your kitchen to store and prepare their own food. Existing cultures aren’t easy to change but, with an effective leader, they can be changed.

Are you a food safety leader in your school community? You can be! As a school nutrition director, you can be confident that you have valuable food safety expertise to share. You probably have a good handle on maintaining food systems and processes, but do you work on continual improvement? Leadership requires more than just food safety expertise. As a leader, you must create a vision, set expectations, and inspire others. By reaching out to partners, you will improve food safety in your school community and you will succeed in creating a culture of food safety.

Communication Tips

The following tips are intended to get you thinking about ways to engage partners in creating a culture of food safety. You aren’t expected to use every idea right away – take the ideas you like and leave the ones you don’t like! You already may use some of these tips to communicate about food safety, or you may use a variety of other communication methods to get your message out.

Tip #1: Set the Stage
  • Clearly define food safety as a value in your school community.
  • Put this commitment in writing.
  • Ask other leaders in the school community to contribute to crafting a set of food safety beliefs or principles.
  • Walk your talk! Remember, if you never talk about food safety, it's probably not part of your culture.
Tip #2: Walk a Mile in Your Partners' Shoes
  • Understand why your partners are uniquely essential to building food-safe schools and creating a culture of food safety.
  • Think about the partner group with whom you are communicating. What are their challenges and priorities? What are their attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions about food safety? How will you influence these attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions?
Tip #3: Have a Conversation
  • Start conversations with your partners. Talking to people is different from having a conversation with them. Conversations can increase the likelihood that messages are understood. They are participatory and can break down barriers.
  • Ask your partners questions. This step may uncover potential problems and will give you insight into how they perceive their role in a culture of food safety.
Tip #4: Establish Food Safety Expectations
  • Establish goals with your partners. Through conversations, you can learn about what your partners’ food safety priorities are and perhaps help them consider other priorities. It is more effective to establish goals and priorities before providing education and training.
  • Discuss with your partners specific actions they can take to meet their goals.
  • Keep goals and actions manageable. They should be simple, clear, relevant, and address critical areas of food safety (i.e., those areas most important to preventing foodborne illness and injury). Don’t overwhelm your partners with too many goals and tasks.
Tip #5: Be Creative and Innovative
  • Use a variety of methods to communicate with your partners. You are very busy and likely need to communicate with many people in the school community. In-person conversations are ideal, but may not always be realistic. How can you use standing meetings (e.g., teacher in-service or PTA), established print materials (e.g., newsletters, school menus), email distribution lists, and social media to communicate with your partners?
  • Value and respect your school community’s diversity. Some groups may not respond to commonly used methods of communication. Why not? Is there a language, literacy, or time barrier? Perhaps communicating in multiple languages, or through pictures and icons, could be more effective. Sometimes, less can be more (i.e., a short, but clear, message).
  • Make education and training participatory and hands-on! Try to engage your partners by appealing to all of the senses.
Tip #6: Use Consequences
  • Use consequences to help shape or reinforce proper food safety behaviors. Consequences can be positive and negative, but research indicates that positive consequences (i.e., positive reinforcements) are more effective. Remember, people need to be reassured that their efforts are worthwhile!
Tip #7: Make it Personal
  • Personalize your messages. A very effective way to communicate the importance of food safety is to add personal examples of their impact to your messages.
  • Ask individuals within your school community who have personal experience with foodborne illness or injury to share their stories. For example, is there a student who has experienced an anaphylactic reaction to a food allergen? If so, ask that student or his/her parents to help others understand why food allergy management is important.
  • Share personal stories about foodborne illness and injury with your school community to communicate the importance of food safety. Even if you can’t find members within your own school community to share personal experiences, you can use stories from children and families in other parts of the country.
Using the Strategy Sheets
happy people around a table

Use the strategy sheets that follow as a conversation starter to initiate your food safety discussions with your school community. Electronic or hard copies of the strategy sheets can be provided to your partners so that they have a tangible message to take away with them.

First, each strategy sheet offers a brief background about how that group, for example school administrators, teachers, or school nurses, can benefit from including food safety as a priority and why food-safe schools and a culture of food safety are important. You can add to this background by verbally communicating your own experiences and examples.

Second, two to three reasons are offered to explain why that group is essential to creating a food safety culture. You may think of plenty more that should be included. Communicate those additional reasons. Third, you want to get that group to think about food safety. Questions are posed to help you understand how those school community members may perceive their role in food-safe schools and how they may contribute.

Finally, two to three specific actions are proposed. These actions should reflect steps that those school community members can take to help build food-safe schools and create a culture of food safety. Feel free to change the actions, or any part of the strategy sheets, to better communicate with your school community.

Strategies for School Nutrition Managers
Strategy Sheet: Strategies for School Nutrition Professionals

As a school nutrition manager, you are one of the most important players on your school’s foodservice team. Every day, you lead your school’s food safety efforts by ensuring that your students are fed safe, nutritious meals. You are the food safety expert for your school. Take a lead in making your school a food-safe school! Share your expertise and passion for food safety with your school community.

Food-safe schools adopt a school-wide approach to food safety and, with the help of partners in the school community, can create a culture of food safety. They address a broad range of food safety topics beyond the scope of what may be required by legislation. This starts with building and supporting strong food safety policies and procedures and continues with education and training. Partners can help achieve the ultimate goal of making food safety second nature to everyone in the school community, thus creating a culture of food safety.

School Nutrition Mangers Are Essential to Creating a Culture of Food Safety
  • You are the front line in assuring the safety of the food provided to students through school meal and snack programs.
  • You are the expert in food safety within your school.
Thinking About Food Safety
  • Does your school nutrition team apply its food safety training, and the school’s policies and procedures, every time food is handled, prepared, and served?
  • Do you have plans in place to address food recalls, food defense, and foodborne illness outbreaks and to manage food allergies?
  • Is food for school meals prepared and/or served outside of the cafeteria? If so, how do you make sure this food is handled and served safely?
  • Can you recognize and correct breakdowns in food safety practices, in the cafeteria and in other school settings?
  • How can you help other members of your school community contribute to a food-safe school?
Take Action!
  • Lead your school’s food safety efforts. Be the school’s food safety expert by knowing your district’s and school’s food safety policies and procedures inside out – and understanding why they are important. Ensure that your school nutrition team understands food safety principles and uses sound practices each time they prepare and serve food. Ask your school nutrition director about new developments in food safety.
  • Share your expertise and passion for food safety. Work with your school nutrition director to learn how you can engage others in the school community in your efforts. Be proud of and confident in your role as the school’s food safety expert. In this role you have a responsibility to ensure that the food kids eat through school meal and snack programs is safe – whether they eat on the bus, in the classroom, or in another school setting. You also can engage other school community partners in your efforts to ensure that all food served to kids is safe.
Resources for School Nutrition Managers
  • The Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN) is dedicated to applied research, education and training, and technical assistance for child nutrition programs. The ICN provides child nutrition (i.e., school nutrition) professionals with a variety of resources to enhance their knowledge and application of food safety principles.
  • The School Nutrition Association (SNA) connects school nutrition professionals to a variety of food safety resources.
  • The International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) has developed simple, wordless food safety icons to reinforce key food safety tasks. The icons are available free of charge for educational and non-commercial uses.
Strategies for Administrators
strategy sheet for administrators

What can you do to safeguard students’ health, decrease absenteeism, prevent legal liabilities, and maintain positive relationships with parents and the community? Make food safety a priority! School administrators are responsible for the health and safety of students and staff in their schools. By placing food safety high on your list of priorities, others will follow the lead. Food-safe schools adopt a school-wide approach to food safety and, with the help of partners in the school community, can create a culture of food safety.

Food-safe schools address a broad range of topics beyond the scope of what may be required by legislation. This starts with building and supporting strong food safety policies and procedures, and continues with education and training. Partners can help achieve the ultimate goal of making food safety second nature to everyone in the school community, thus creating a culture of food safety.

Administrators Are Essential to Creating a Culture of Food Safety
  • You can launch a school-wide approach to food safety. Your support is critical for developing and putting school food safety policies and procedures into action—in the cafeteria and throughout the school community.
  • You have the power to make food safety a priority in schools, protecting students, staff, and the school from foodborne illness.
Thinking About Food Safety
  • Among the many priorities you juggle as an administrator, where do you place food safety—in the cafeteria as well as throughout the school?
  • Could increasing the focus on food safety help you deal with other important concerns—like absenteeism, legal liabilities, and relationships with the community?
  • Are you concerned about food served through other school programs (independent of school meals programs)? An example would be food served through fundraising events or celebrations.
  • If you could take some steps to enhance food safety, what would they be?
  • How can the school nutrition team help you take those steps?
Take Action!
  • Enhance your knowledge of food safety. Find out more about your school district’s food safety efforts by meeting with members of the school nutrition team. These efforts should address everything from receiving food from safe sources, to safely preparing nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables, to managing food allergies. You have a role in all of these efforts!
  • Understand why food safety has a place in schools. Did you know that norovirus, a very contagious stomach illness that can cause people to feel sick suddenly with no warning, was responsible for more than 10,000 illnesses associated with foodborne outbreaks in schools between 1998 and 2009? This is just one example of how foodborne illness can interfere with education.
  • Promote good food safety behaviors among students and staff. Take the lead and set the example! By encouraging sound food safety practices, such as proper handwashing and safe food handling inside and outside of the cafeteria, you will show the school community that you value food safety. Find ways to promote food safety such as in-service training sessions for teachers, handwashing competitions for students, and educational outreach for parents.
Resources for Administrators
  • Safe at School and Ready to Learn offers school policymakers and administrators a comprehensive policy guide for protecting students with life-threatening allergies.
Strategies for Teachers
Strategy Sheet: Strategies for Parents

When students regularly eat nutritious meals, they are more alert and focused in the classroom. Ensuring that these meals are safe also is critical to classroom success. Unsafe food can adversely affect students’ health and increase absenteeism. As a teacher, you are in a unique position – you can influence your students’ attitudes about food safety to keep them healthy every day! Food-safe schools adopt a school-wide approach to food safety, and, with the help of partners in the school community, can create a culture of food safety.

Food-safe schools address a broad range of topics beyond the scope of what may be required by legislation. This starts with building and supporting strong food safety policies and procedures, and continues with education and training. Partners can help achieve the ultimate goal of making food safety second nature to everyone in the school community, thus creating a culture of food safety.

Teachers Are Essential to Creating a Culture of Food Safety
  • You are among the most important role models and sources of information for your students.
  • You are in an excellent position to help children understand the importance of food safety and to equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to handle food safely.
  • The knowledge you provide can help decrease the number of students who become sick from foodborne illness.
Thinking About Food Safety
  • Do your students know how to properly wash their hands and why handwashing is important?
  • Do you encourage your students to wash their hands before they eat?
  • Do you encourage your students to wash their hands after using the restroom and after recess?
  • Are you responsible for handling or serving food in your classroom?
  • If you could take some steps to enhance food safety, what would they be?
  • How can the school nutrition team help you take those steps?
Take Action!
  • Encourage proper handwashing. Proper handwashing is critical to food safety and illness prevention and should be encouraged, particularly after students use the restroom and before they eat. Teach your students how to properly wash their hands and allow time for handwashing before and after meals. Remember, hand sanitizers have their place, but the best practice is still good, old-fashioned handwashing!
  • Be a food safety role model. Demonstrate good food safety practices in the classroom. Always wash your hands before handling or serving food, and never handle food directly with your bare hands (use gloves or utensils). Monitor food temperatures to prevent harmful bacteria from growing in food. Your school nutrition team can help you understand safe holding times and temperatures for food.
  • Include food safety in your lessons. Use existing food safety curricula or incorporate aspects of food safety, such as taking food temperatures, into science or math classes.
Resources for Parents
  • Home Food Safety Mythbusters- Common food safety myths originate from the misapplication of science, family tradition, or misinformation on social media. The Partnership created these social media graphics for consumers and educators to help debunk common home food safety myths. Brush up on safe food handling steps with these food safety Mythbusters!
  • Learn more about food safety and how to protect your children from foodborne illness by becoming a BAC! Fighter.
Strategies for Teachers
Strategy Sheet: Strategies for Teachers

When students regularly eat nutritious meals, they are more alert and focused in the classroom. Ensuring that these meals are safe also is critical to classroom success. Unsafe food can adversely affect students’ health and increase absenteeism. As a teacher, you are in a unique position – you can influence your students’ attitudes about food safety to keep them healthy every day!

Food-safe schools adopt a school-wide approach to food safety, and, with the help of partners in the school community, can create a culture of food safety. Food-safe schools address a broad range of topics beyond the scope of what may be required by legislation. This starts with building and supporting strong food safety policies and procedures, and continues with education and training. Partners can help achieve the ultimate goal of making food safety second nature to everyone in the school community, thus creating a culture of food safety.

Teachers Are Essential to Creating a Culture of Food Safety
  • You are among the most important role models and sources of information for your students.
  • You are in an excellent position to help children understand the importance of food safety and to equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to handle food safely.
  • The knowledge you provide can help decrease the number of students who become sick from foodborne illness.
Thinking About Food Safety
  • Do your students know how to properly wash their hands and why handwashing is important?
  • Do you encourage your students to wash their hands before they eat?
  • Do you encourage your students to wash their hands after using the restroom and after recess?
  • Are you responsible for handling or serving food in your classroom?
  • If you could take some steps to enhance food safety, what would they be?
  • How can the school nutrition team help you take those steps?
Take Action!
  • Encourage proper handwashing. Proper handwashing is critical to food safety and illness prevention and should be encouraged, particularly after students use the restroom and before they eat. Teach your students how to properly wash their hands and allow time for handwashing before and after meals. Remember, hand sanitizers have their place, but the best practice is still good, old-fashioned handwashing!
  • Be a food safety role model. Demonstrate good food safety practices in the classroom. Always wash your hands before handling or serving food, and never handle food directly with your bare hands (use gloves or utensils). Monitor food temperatures to prevent harmful bacteria from growing in food. Your school nutrition team can help you understand safe holding times and temperatures for food.
  • Include food safety in your lessons. Use existing food safety curricula or incorporate aspects of food safety, such as taking food temperatures, into science or math classes.
Resources for Teachers
  • The Partnership for Food Safety Education’s Curriculum and Kids section contains curricula for all age ranges from day care though high school.
  • The FDA and the National Science Teachers Association have partnered to offer teachers a host of resources to create or enhance a food safety curriculum. Online lesson plans and resources, called SciGuides, and free subject-matter teacher tutorials, called Science Objects and SciPacks, are available in food science, microbiology, and nutrition. Science and Our Food Supply is a free supplementary curriculum designed for middle and high-school classrooms.
Strategies for Students
Strategy Sheet: Strategies for Students

Do you know what a food-safe school is and why it’s important? Sometimes, the food you eat can make you very sick if it isn’t safely prepared and handled. The good news is that there are things you, your parents, your teachers, and others can do to keep your food safe!

A food-safe school includes everyone in your community to create a culture of food safety. What’s a culture of food safety? A culture of food safety means that everyone, every day, plays their part to keep the food that you eat at school safe!

Students Are Essential to Creating a Culture of Food Safety
  • You can make healthy behavior choices to keep your food safe.
  • You have a voice at your school. Let your principal, teachers, and school nutrition (cafeteria) team know that food safety is important to you.
Thinking About Food Safety
  • Do you wash your hands before eating meals and snacks?
  • Do you know what your principal, teachers, school nutrition (cafeteria) team, and parents are doing to keep your food safe?
  • What simple things can you do to keep your food safe?
Take Action!
  • CLEAN! Wash your hands before eating snacks and meals. Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, including the back of your hands and under fingernails, and dry them with a paper towel, before eating snacks and meals. Don’t be afraid to ask your teacher for permission to wash your hands before eating!
  • SEPARATE! Think carefully about what you do with food. Always keep raw meat, chicken, and fish separate from each other and other types of food, such as fresh fruits and vegetables so harmful bacteria don’t move from food that will be cooked to food that won’t be cooked. Some people may have food allergies – that means that eating a certain food can make them very, very sick. Food allergies are very serious, so think twice about swapping lunches with your friends!
  • COOK! Eat your hot food right away. You may not have to worry about cooking food at school, but you do need to follow some basic rules when eating it. When you are served hot food, in the cafeteria, classroom, or anywhere else, eat it before it gets cold. It will taste better and food that sits out and is not kept hot may grow germs!
  • CHILL! Keep your cold food cold. If you bring your lunch from home, ask your parents to include ice or ice packs in your lunchbox, or ask your teacher if you can keep your lunch in a refrigerator. Try not to keep leftover food from snacks or meals served at school. Food may grow germs if it it’s not kept cold!
Strategies for School Nurses
Strategy Sheet: Strategies for School Nurses

Not every school has a nurse; your school is lucky to have you! An outbreak of foodborne illness can fill your clinic fast – preventing illness is a top priority. You can prevent foodborne illness by helping your school nutrition team engage community partners in the school’s food safety efforts. You also can work with partners to detect illnesses early and quickly implement measures to prevent additional illnesses.

Food-safe schools adopt a school-wide approach to food safety, and, with the help of partners in the school community, can create a culture of food safety. Food-safe schools address a broad range of topics beyond the scope of what may be required by legislation. This starts with building and supporting strong food safety policies and procedures, and continues with education and training. Partners can help achieve the ultimate goal of making food safety second nature to everyone in the school community, thus creating a culture of food safety.

School Nurses Are Essential to Creating a Culture of Food Safety
  • You have a unique perspective and can help develop and implement health education curricula.
  • You play a key role in promoting prevention strategies, such as regular and proper handwashing.
  • You are integrally involved with disability and allergy care plans.
Thinking About Food Safety
  • Are you aware of your school’s existing food safety efforts? What is your role in these efforts?
  • Can you quickly recognize the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction to food or a foodborne illness?
  • If you could take some steps to enhance food safety, what would they be?
Take Action!
  • Promote handwashing among students and staff. Handwashing – an oldie, but goodie! Leverage your role as the medical professional within the school to promote the importance of proper handwashing. Visit with individual classes to discuss the topic and provide demonstrations. Encourage administrators and custodial staff to keep hand sinks equipped with warm, running water, soap, and paper towels. Help teachers find ways to schedule handwashing breaks for students before meals.
  • Verify that your school has a Food Allergy Action Plan. As a nurse, you know how devastating an allergic reaction to food can be. Is your school community prepared to prevent allergic reactions from occurring and respond to reactions when they do occur? Meet with your administrators and school nutrition team to ensure that your school’s plan identifies all students with food allergies, maintains an individualized emergency care plan for each student with a food allergy, and prepares others in the school community to prevent and respond to allergic reactions to food.
  • Develop a recordkeeping system to track absences related to illness. Surveillance is critical to identify and track outbreaks of illness, including foodborne illness. Help your school develop and use a recordkeeping system to track absenteeism. The system should capture information to help identify symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments, etc. Review these records regularly to identify potential trends you may want to share with other partners.
Resources for School Nurses
  • The Handbook for School Nurses provides comprehensive information on foodborne illness, prevention, and early response. The leadership role of the school nurse in developing food-safe schools is identified, and a thorough and comprehensive guide is provided that is applicable in all school settings.
  • The National Association of School Nurses offers a variety of resources and tools to assist school nurses in the development of wellness resources, including extensive guidance on food allergy and anaphylaxis.
Strategies for the Local Health Department
Strategy Sheet: Strategies for the Local Health Department

If a foodborne illness outbreak occurred at a school in your district would the school be prepared to respond and assist you, the Local Health Department (LHD) professional, in your investigation? Does a close relationship exist between the LHD and the school district to facilitate communication? Do you have a partnership that strives to prevent and rapidly respond to foodborne illness outbreaks, food recalls, and food defense threats?

Food-safe schools adopt a school-wide approach to food safety and, with the help of partners in the school community, can create a culture of food safety. Food-safe schools address a broad range of topics beyond the scope of what may be required by legislation. This starts with building and supporting strong food safety policies and procedures, and continues with education and training. Partners can help achieve the ultimate goal of making food safety second nature to everyone in the school community, thus creating a culture of food safety.

The Local Health Department Is Essential to Creating a Culture of Food Safety

As the local expert in food safety, the LHD professional can:

  • Serve as an invaluable food safety resource and provide training to the school nutrition team.
  • Assist schools in developing food safety policies, procedures, and activities to promote sound food safety practices throughout the school community.
  • Lead investigations of foodborne illness outbreaks and implement control measures to stop the spread of illness.
Thinking About Food Safety
  • Are you aware of each school’s existing food safety efforts? What specific role do LHD professionals play in these efforts?
  • Does the LHD help the school district meet its legislative requirements by conducting two food safety inspections at each school, each school year?
  • What are some ways that the LHD can help the school nutrition team enhance food safety in the school community?
Take Action!
  • Establish partnerships within the school district. Establish working relationships with the school nutrition director and the school nutrition managers. Communicate with the director when a food safety issue arises in a school. Share new information with the director to enhance food safety efforts within the school community.
  • Establish guidelines for responding to foodborne illness outbreaks. Establish guidelines for contacting the LHD about a suspected foodborne illness outbreak. Prepare the school community members for a potential investigation by letting them know what to expect during an investigation and what information the LHD will need to collect. Investigate suspected foodborne illness outbreaks in collaboration with school staff.
Resources for the Local Health Department
  • The National Environmental Health Association’s (NEHA) Food Safety Programs are dedicated to educating food safety and environmental health professionals. NEHA’s Food Safe Schools (FSS) Program is dedicated to improving the health, education, and well-being of young people.
  • The Food Related Emergency Exercise Bundle (FREE-B) is a compilation of scenarios based on both intentional and unintentional food contamination events. It is designed with the intention of assisting government regulatory and public health agencies in assessing existing food emergency response plans, protocols and procedures that may be in place, or that they are in the process of revising or even developing.
Strategies for Emergency Planners
Strategy Sheet: Strategies for Emergency Planners

Who knows more about preparing for emergencies, preventing crises, and responding to emergency situations quickly and effectively than you, the emergency planner? Sharing your expertise and working with the school nutrition team can help establish and support safe and healthy schools. By working with partners in the school community, you can help the school nutrition director establish plans to prevent and respond to foodborne illness, particularly illness that may result from intentional contamination.

Food-safe schools adopt a school-wide approach to food safety, and, with the help of partners in the school community, can create a culture of food safety. Food-safe schools address a broad range of topics beyond the scope of what may be required by legislation. This starts with building and supporting strong food safety policies and procedures, and continues with education and training. Partners can help achieve the ultimate goal of making food safety second nature to everyone in the school community, thus creating a culture of food safety.

Emergency Planners Are Essential to Creating a Culture of Food Safety
  • You are the local expert in planning and preparing for crises and emergencies. An incident involving the school food supply may warrant an emergency response.
  • You can help schools understand how the effective application of the Incident Command System (ICS) will help when responding to an emergency.
  • You can help school nutrition directors identify and plan for potential emergencies involving food served in schools and the impact of those emergencies on the school community.
  • You can assist schools with rapid crisis communication during food-related emergencies.
Thinking About Food Safety
  • How do the four phases of effective emergency management planning (Prevention-Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery) apply to school nutrition? Should food-related emergencies be part of a comprehensive school emergency management plan?
  • What are some ways that you can help the school nutrition team enhance food safety in the school community?
Take Action!
  • Establish a partnership with the school nutrition director. Collaboration and communication are critical to emergency management. Talk with the school nutrition director about a food-related emergency management plan. Ensure that it takes an “all-hazards” approach; includes a risk assessment, Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP), and emergency feeding plan; and addresses intentional and unintentional incidents that may contaminate the food supply.
  • Assist in developing a food defense plan. Meet with the school nutrition director to discuss and review the school district’s food defense plan. Provide specific suggestions to include in or enhance that plan. Assist the school nutrition director in running a drill or exercise to test their preparedness.
Resources for Emergency Planners
  • The Emergency Management Institute, hosted by FEMA, strives to improve the competencies of individuals in Emergency Management at all levels of government to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the potential effects of all types of disasters and emergencies.
  • The U.S. Department of Education hosts a Web site for the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance Center. Training covering food defense preparedness for schools is located on the REMS page under the “distance learning” tab. DisasterAssistance.gov compiles resources from the USDA, FDA, and FEMA that offer guidance to emergency planners on how to keep food safe during an emergency situation.
Strategies for Cooperative Extension Educators
Strategy Sheet: Strategies for Cooperative Extension Educators

The Cooperative Extension Service, located at county offices across the United States and at land-grant colleges and universities, receives federal funds from the USDA to focus on research, education, and extension in the food and agricultural sciences and related environmental and human sciences. Cooperative Extension educators may provide training, materials, and resources on a variety of topics including food safety. You, the Cooperative Extension educator, can play a vital role in providing practical information and reliable training to schools on food safety topics.

Food-safe schools adopt a school-wide approach to food safety, and, with the help of partners in the school community, can create a culture of food safety. Food-safe schools address a broad range of topics beyond the scope of what may be required by legislation. This starts with building and supporting strong food safety policies and procedures, and continues with education and training. Partners can help achieve the ultimate goal of making food safety second nature to everyone in the school community, thus creating a culture of food safety.

Cooperative Extension Educators Are Essential to Creating a Culture of Food Safety

Cooperative Extension Educators can:

  • Provide food safety training and materials to the school community.
  • Help schools incorporate food safety into existing healthy school plans.
  • Contribute to and provide access to scientific knowledge that can inform and assist with the development of school food safety procedures.
  • Provide a communication network to inform the community of school food safety efforts.
Thinking About Food Safety
  • Are the schools that you serve taking full advantage of your services and resources to maximize their food safety efforts?
  • What are some ways that the Cooperative Extension can help the school nutrition team enhance food safety in the school community?
Take Action!
  • Take a proactive role in the school district’s food safety efforts. Meet with the school nutrition director and discuss specific types of food safety support and training, including food safety curricula, materials, and updates on current food safety research and practices, that the Cooperative Extension can provide.
  • Publicize and provide recognition for food safety activities of schools. The Cooperative Extension Service has strong connections in the community and can help to publicize and provide recognition for the school district’s food safety activities. Working with schools to get their story out could strengthen food safety partnerships throughout the school community.
Resources for Cooperative Extension Educators
Food Safety Resources for All Community Members

These resources are provided for you to understand and communicate food safety, or share with others.

  • The Stomach Bug Book: What School Employees Need to Know is a booklet that explains what school employees need to know about stomach illnesses at school. Available in both English and Spanish, it speaks to school nutrition workers, nurses, custodians, teachers, para-educators, education assistants, bus drivers, and school secretaries.
  • FoodSafety.gov is the gateway to food safety information provided by federal government agencies. It compiles information from the White House, USDA, FDA, CDC, and NIH.
  • FightBAC! – Learn more about food safety, become a BAC! Fighter, and/or sign-up for free weekly e-cards through the Partnership for Food Safety Education. You can even modify the FightBAC! E-cards to meet the needs of your school community.
  • Food Safe Families aims to raise awareness of the risks of food poisoning, motivate consumers to take action to reduce their personal risk of food poisoning, and achieve safe food handling behaviors—clean, separate, cook, and chill. The Food Safe Families Campaign Toolkit offers downloadable public service announcements, media outreach, and other resources to bring food safety into the home and classroom!
  • The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has a number of safe food handling fact sheets to help you keep your food safe in a variety of settings. Get tips on how to keep bagged lunches safe, food safety after school, and how to safely cook for groups such as those served at school fundraisers and pot lucks.
  • The CDC Healthy Youth! Food Safety Web site connects you to resources and information related to food safety in schools.
  • Food Allergy Research & Education maintains a Web site with information for managing students with allergies. It contains a variety of resources including tips; state, school, and camp guidelines; and an e-learning center.
Updated: 09/19/2022