Texas A&M AgriLife Extension agents claim national food safety award

Writer: Kay Ledbetter, 806-677-5608, skledbetter@ag.tamu.edu
Contact: Dr. Angela Burkham, 806-677-5600, angela.burkham@ag.tamu.edu

SAN ANTONIO – A group of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agents from the Panhandle received the Food Safety Award at the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Science conference in San Antonio on Sept. 27.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service family and community health agents from District 1 earned national recognition for their food safety education programs.  Pictured l to r are: Wendy Hazzard, Wheeler; Chelsey Tillman, Oldham; Billie Peden, Armstrong; Amalia Mata, Deaf Smith; Lizabeth Gresham and Jennifer Nickell, Potter; Kay Herron-Rogers, Dallam/Hartley; Carolyn Prill-Bennett, Moore;  Joan Gray-Soria, Gray.  (Texas A&M AgriLife photo )

The annual award recognizes outstanding innovative programming that has shown significant impact on food safety, according to the association’s guidelines.

With food safety as a primary concern for families both inside and outside the home, AgriLife Extension family and community health agents from across the Panhandle joined forces to help 10,267 adults and youth handle food safely through multiple approaches, the award presentation stated.

Recipients of the award and the counties they represented during the trainings are: Joan Gray-Soria, Gray; Billie Peden, Armstrong; Kay Herron-Rogers, Dallam/Hartley; Amalia Mata, Deaf Smith; Whitley Sprague, Hansford; Miquela Smith, Ochiltree; Amy Wagner, Randall; Wendy Hazzard, Wheeler; Carolyn Prill-Bennett, Moore; Chelsey Tillman, Oldham; and Lizabeth Gresham and Jennifer Nickell, Potter.

“We are so proud of this outstanding group of agents who have made food safety a high priority throughout District 1,” said Dr. Angela Burkham, AgriLife Extension state program leader – family and community health, Amarillo. “This is a highly competitive and prestigious award presented by the association nationally. The recipients also presented their work during the conference, which attracted almost 900 professionals from across the nation.”

Burkham said everyone is at risk for foodborne illness, but older adults, pregnant women, young children, individuals with chronic disease, and those with a compromised immune system are at an increased risk.

“We know it is imperative that both individuals and personnel who work in retail food service handle food safely,” Burkham said. “And what better agency than AgriLife Extension, with a presence in all counties, to provide that education.”

The award recipients along with all AgriLife Extension family and community health agents in the Texas Panhandle participate in the Better Living for Texans, or BLT, program. In 2017, District 1 BLT programs targeting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education eligible recipients reached 220 participants with educational lessons on food safety, the award nomination stated.

Pre- and post-tests indicated participants adopted Fight Bac food safety principles and learned to wash their hands before preparing food as well as wash fruits and vegetables before eating and serving them.

A total of 5,167 participants were reached with single or series educational programming events regarding food safety, the nomination stated.

In Potter and Randall counties, the agents partnered with Region 16 Educational Service Center to present Kids in the Kitchen to 96 migrant youth at their annual Health and Safety Fair.  The Kids in the Kitchen session is a lesson on food safety, kitchen safety, washing fruits and vegetables, avoiding cross contamination, hands-on cooking skills, and increasing fresh vegetable and fruit consumption.

Additionally, to meet the need for quality food safety education in Texas retail food establishments, the Food Protection Management, or FPM, program was taught by agents in Gray, Deaf Smith, Moore, Wheeler and Randall counties. The two-day certified food manager program prepared 100 food service workers to take the state Certified Food Manager exam.

The course curriculum, Food Safety: It’s Our Business includes: facts about foodborne illness; biological, physical, and chemical contamination; personal hygiene; purchasing; receiving; storing; preparing; serving; Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or HACCP; cleaning; and pest control.

Agents in Armstrong, Dallam, Deaf Smith, Gray, Hansford, Lipscomb, Moore, Oldham, Potter, Randall and Wheeler counties provided the two-hour food handlers course, required for all food service employees, to 1,074 employees in 2016-17 to help promote the service of safe food.

Food Safety: It’s in Your Hands addresses foodborne illness and outbreaks; personal hygiene, illness, time and temperature abuse, cross-contamination; preparing and serving food; and cleaning and sanitizing.

The team of agents offered 71 classes across the Panhandle in both English and Spanish in 2016-17. When surveyed, this was the first food safety class for most of the participants, the nomination stated.

Food Preservation classes were also offered throughout the Panhandle, focusing on food safety. Preserving the Harvest curriculum was taught to both adult and youth participants, concentrating on the principles of food safety through harvest, preservation and storage of produce. Participants received hands-on training by preparing produce to be preserved in both the pressure canner and the boiling water canner.

The agents also promoted food safety on Amarillo’s NBC affiliate KAMR Studio 4 television program. This weekly spot on Food for the Family showcases the importance of food safety through healthy meal and snack preparation.

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