The program, funded by a $40,000 grant from the National Association of County and City Health Officials, involves Family and Consumer Science Extension agents in Bibb and Houston counties and the Macon-Bibb Health Department. The grant allows foodservice employees to attend day-long workshops on food safety for free. Classes are based on the ServSafe employee curriculum and are taught in Bibb and Houston counties by FACS Extension agents Peggy Bledsoe and Jan Baggerly. “The impetus for this grant grew out of a recognition by inspectors for the health department that employees – in addition to managers – of food service establishments needed training beyond what they receive on the job,” Baggerly said. More than 130 employees have attended since classes began in September 2003. The goal of the program is to have more than 1,000 attendees when the grant ends in March 2005. Classes are open to anyone working in the foodservice industry. Thus far, participants have come from restaurants, child care settings, senior homes, group homes, and an outreach center. Although some managers find it difficult to cover the absence of employees, others are thrilled with the additional knowledge those attending receive. “A Wendy's manager called me prior to the last class wanting to send more of his employees because an earlier group of his employees returned from the class excited about what they had learned,” Baggerly said. “Those employees also took pride in what they were doing, and were sharing what they had learned with their co-workers.” In addition to the class and pre- and post-tests conducted in connection with it, a representative of the Macon-Bibb County Health Department conducts follow up interviews a week or two after the classes to ensure that employees are retaining the information they have learned. For more information on the program or to learn when it will be offered, call the Bibb County Extension Service office at 478-751-6338; the Houston County Extension Service office at 478-987-2028; or the Macon-Bibb County Health Department at 478-749-0121.
(Denise Horton is a contracted writer for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Office of Global Programs.)