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A team of Southwest District Family and Consumer Sciences Agents developed an online training curriculum for school nutrition employees to meet CEU credit requirements in lieu of the opportunity to provide face-to-face instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Every industry has a critical need for Continuing education. The state of Georgia requires school nutrition employees to obtain 10 hours of continued education (CEUs) yearly. Children are among those most vulnerable to foodborne diseases, making the role of the food service worker integral to ensuring their safety while consuming food in the school setting2. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides estimates for the number of cases caused by foodborne illness to be 48 million people a year. Harmful bacteria such as Camplobacter spp. Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes along with others can be detrimental to the health of those being served by foodservice staff. One study presented that in 816 foodborne outbreaks where food workers were involved, the most frequently reported contribution to outbreaks were food handlers who were infected with a pathogen touching food with improperly washed bare hands. Other causes of illness came from inadequate cleaning of processing or preparation equipment or utensils, cross-contamination of ready to eat foods by raw ingredients, and temperature abuse1. Foodborne illness in the school setting can occur from contributing factors in three categories as a result of errors in food safety: contamination, proliferation, and survival 3. These incidences can occur without careful attention in the foodservice setting. Examples of improper food preparation include touching food with an ungloved hand by a food worker who is ill or failure to adhere to proper heating, cooling and storage methods, allowing for pathogen growth. Adequate training of employees is essential to providing a safe environment for food preparation and service. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, training opportunities were limited for the directors of school nutrition programs across the state of Georgia. UGA Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agents identified this need and developed a system for an online virtual delivery option for those school systems who were unable to host a face-to-face training.


The curriculum “Cooking Up a Safe Kitchen” was developed to address topics of food safety such as proper handwashing methods, the temperature danger zone, proper hygiene, contamination from use of mobile devices, proper internal cooking temperatures, appropriate cooling and reheating methods, as well as how towels and sponges can leave behind bacteria. Food service employees were provided training through the use of Google Classroom. This electronic platform allowed school nutrition directors and their employees across southwest Georgia to digitally access training materials, maintaining their safety during the pandemic. Using this digital platform to educate food handlers made it possible to expand our outreach to involve new counties that had not previously participated in a UGA Extension training. Two trainings were hosted in person.


This Southwest District wide collaboration has resulted in reaching 121 school nutrition employees throughout six counties in southwest Georgia. The school nutrition employees filled out an evaluation showing that 87.50% of the employees indicated their knowledge growth on the impact of their personal hygiene and mobile devices on food safety and 81.65% of the employees indicated to clean their mobile devices. The school nutrition employees responded to the encouragement to clearing hygiene standards in their kitchen at 94.5% would always make sure it happened. Comments from participants about the trainings: On the post evaluation survey the participants commented on the program, here are a few of those participant comments. “The videos in the program were wonderful, the one on cell phones and towels really brought light to the ladies,” “everything has to be clean. Make sure you wash your hands at all times, be clean, and presentable when you are at work.” “That the cell phone has a lot of bacteria on it and you need to clean it often,” “Remember how easy it is to make someone sick by not doing the right thing,” and “make sure everything I learn, I also practice every day.”

State Issue

Food Safety & Quality


  • Year: 2020
  • Geographic Scope: Multi-County
  • County: Thomas
  • Location: College Station, Athens
  • Program Areas:
    • Family and Consumer Sciences


  • Geurin, Ashleigh Eleanore


CAES Collaborator(s)

  • Adkins, Teresa Gayle
  • Andress, Elizabeth L.
  • Carney, Dana Marie
  • Garner, Christina Tamara
  • Holmes, Grace
  • Stackhouse, Rebecca
  • Williams, Suzanne R
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Extension Impact