Through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the UMass Department of Nutrition has launched the Food Safety from Farm and Garden to Preschool online training program. The department has partnered with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension to develop this free, online, interactive food safety program for early child care educators, foodservice staff, and parents.
The program is now available online at; www.umass.edu/safefoodfarm2kid
The program takes about 2-hours. It is self-paced and was created to help early childcare educators, foodservice staff, volunteers, and parents understand the importance of reducing the risk of food safety related to fresh fruits and vegetables in young children. The program includes five units:
- Farm to Preschool Benefits
- Fresh Produce and Foodborne Illness Risks
- Food Safety Basics for the Classroom and the Kitchen
- Food Safety and Gardening Activities
- Food Safety on Field Trips to Farms and Farmers’ Market.
Online discussion boards and printable resources such as Best Practices Planning Tools, resources, and Certificates of Completion are available and may be able to be used towards Professional Development requirements. The program is also offered as an in-person training workshop in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Nancy Cohen, Professor and Head of the Department of Nutrition and the Principal Investigator on the USDA grant, expects that through increased food safety knowledge and increased adoption of safe and healthy practices in Farm to Preschool (F2P) programs, that food safety risk will be reduced considerably for the hundreds of preschool children who participate in expanding F2P programs throughout New England.
“Over 400 participants from across the U.S. participated in the program in the first five weeks,” says Cohen. “Early indications show improved knowledge and planned behavior changes, not only in food safety practices, but in plans to increase gardens and fresh fruits and vegetables served. Research will continue to determine behavior changes as a result of the program.”