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Food-handling training helps ensure safe meals for children

August 19, 2014
Jill Overton, food service director for Franklin Community Schools, can't overstate the case for foo

Jill Overton, food service director for Franklin Community Schools, can't overstate the case for food safety with children. She sends cafeteria workers to Indiana food-handler certification workshops offered by Purdue Extension-Johnson County.

Jill Overton has more than 4,000 reasons to think about food safety — that's how many meals cafeteria staff at Franklin Community Schools prepare each school day.

"We're feeding a lot of kids," says Overton, a registered dietician and food service director for the Johnson County school corporation. "We do everything we can to avoid a foodborne illness outbreak."

All state retail food outlets, including school cafeterias, are required to employ at least one certified food handler at each location. When Overton and several of her managers needed their five-year recertification, they signed up for an Indiana food-handler certification workshop taught by Linda Souchon, Purdue Extension educator in Johnson County.

Souchon is one of several Purdue Extension educators and county health staff trained who deliver one- and two-day programs that teach food-safety education and offer certification to workers employed at restaurants, supermarkets, convenience stores, and other food-service outlets.

"I like all of our workers to take the training, even if they aren't required to be certified," Overton says.

So Souchon went out of her way to make this happen. She arranged food safety programs during scheduled school breaks, which allowed more of Overton's food-service staff to attend — something that wasn't possible when cafeteria workers had to be away during a school day for training.

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