Grant extends research of Kansas State University's child food safety center
Friday, Jan. 9, 2015
MANHATTAN — Researchers in the hospitality management and dietetics department at Kansas State University's College of Human Ecology have received an $800,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Services to extend the Center of Excellence for Food Safety Research in Child Nutrition Programs.
The award is in addition to the two-year $1.6 million grant awarded to the college in 2012 to establish the center.
"Our research helps provide the foundation for science-based decisions for food safety of the more than 2.2 billion meals and snacks served annually through various child nutrition programs," said Kevin Roberts, associate professor of hospitality management and dietetics and director of the center. Food safety research affects the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service, After School Snack Programs and the Child, Adult Care Feeding Programs and more.
Also on the leadership team are Carol Shanklin, dean of the university's Graduate School and professor of hospitality management and dietetics; Kevin Sauer, associate professor of hospitality management and dietetics; and Jeannie Sneed, research professor of hospitality management and dietetics.
Two new researchers will join the center in early 2015.
Paola Paez has been named associate research professor. She is currently an associate professor in the School of Human Nutrition, College of Medicine, University of Costa Rica. Paez received her doctorate from Iowa State University in food service and lodging management. Her research focuses on training and motivating food service employees to follow safe food-handling practices.
Ellen Thomas has been named research assistant professor. She is completing her doctoral degree at North Carolina State University in food science. Her dissertation research focuses on servers' communication with consumers regarding the risks associated with eating undercooked ground beef. Her project is part of a national USDA Coordinated Agricultural Project grant to assess and mitigate Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli risks associated with ground beef from farm to fork.
Kansas State University has a long history of research and education related to food service management. More than five colleges and 13 departments are involved in food safety issues at the university.
"Collaboration with others around campus gives us added opportunities for broad research and outreach that involves faculty, staff and students," Roberts said.
A continuing project is a four-day course called Serving up Science offered three times a year on the Manhattan campus. It provides staff in district school nutrition programs and state agencies with the food science principles that support the Food Safety Program based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points principles. The course focuses on developing a food safety culture, which is emphasized in the newly revised USDA Food-Safe Schools Action Guide.
Current center research includes:
• Safety of school lunches served on field trips. Little research regarding the safety of field trip meals has been conducted. Both teachers and school food service managers will be surveyed to determine current practices on field trip meals with the purpose of identifying opportunities to improve food safety.
• Food allergy study. Schools are responsible for ensuring that students with food allergies who are participating in the national School Lunch Program receive safe, healthy meals. This study will survey district food service directors across the nation to collect baseline data on food allergies and allergens in schools. This research explores practices and challenges of managing allergies in schools as well as the incidence and nature of recent food allergy reactions.
• Summer Food Service Program study. The Summer Food Service Program feeds low-income children when school is not in session. Sponsor organizations include schools, churches and other community partners who provide meals that meet federal nutrition standards. Food safety is a vital part of all food service programs. This observational study is designed to gain better insight in how nonschool organizations are delivering meals to children and identify food safety concerns.
• Behavior-based food safety study. Food service employees have innate barriers that prevent them from modeling proper food safety practices. This study will identify those barriers, develop and test a revised Serving-it-Safe training course, and increase employee knowledge of food safety.
The hospitality management and dietetics department is one of five academic units in Kansas State University's College of Human Ecology.