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K-State Today

December 20, 2017

USDA selects Kansas State University to improve child nutrition safety

By College of Human Ecology

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service has selected Kansas State University to direct the Center for Food Safety in Child Nutrition Programs. The research resulting from this partnership will help improve food safety across all of USDA's child nutrition programs, which serve billions of meals to children each year.  

"Ensuring food safety in meals served through child nutrition programs is a priority for USDA," said Brandon Lipps, Administrator of USDA's Food and Nutrition Service. "The Center for Food Safety in Child Nutrition Programs at Kansas State University provides valued leadership in advancing food safety research and practices that equip child nutrition program operators with the tools they need to serve food safely."

The announcement is part of USDA's continuing commitment to ensuring all Americans have access to safe and nutritious food. The three-year, $1.8 million cooperative agreement leverages K-State’s multidisciplinary food safety research programs, which include more than 50 nationally and internationally recognized faculty from five colleges and 13 departments. 

"We are ecstatic that USDA recognized the expertise and capacity of our faculty in selecting the College of Human Ecology at Kansas State University to continue to host this multidisciplinary center," said Dean John Buckwalter. "The College of Human Ecology is proud of this center and the important work that it does." 

The award is a continuation of former Center of Excellence for Food Safety Research in Child Nutrition Programs, awarded to K-State in 2011. The center uses an interdisciplinary team approach to disseminate food safety solutions to school nutrition directors and operators, scientists, policymakers, educators and practitioners. Research areas are prioritized through the cooperative agreement with Food and Nutrition Service's Office of Food Safety.

Proposed future research includes: identifying the barriers and enablers to a food defense management plan implementation; prioritizing food safety needs in childcare settings; identifying food safety risks associated with specific food production methods; and advancing food safety practices in Farm to School programs. 

Center leadership noted that "while child nutrition programs are consistently ranked among the safest of food service environments, there are still critical needs that must be addressed through evidence-based research. The existing center has laid a strong foundation to address these needs, and we are excited that USDA has recognized the quality of research already completed and has selected Kansas State to continue with the new center." 

The center will be co-directed by Kevin Roberts, associate professor of hospitality management and Kevin Sauer, associate professor of food, nutrition, dietetics, and health, with leadership support from Carol Shanklin, professor and dean of the Graduate School. They are joined by Paola Paez, research associate professor; Kerri Cole, project coordinator; and graduate research assistants Michelle Alcorn and Tracee Watkins.

Read more about the center in the announcement from the USDA.