Dec 9, 2021
Food safety grant goes to Alabama Cooperative Extension

Food safety and processing issues can present big challenges to small farmers as they diversify their operations. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System will help farmers address those challenges thanks to a grant from the USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture.

“Education and outreach are essential for ensuring our food supply is safe from the field to the table,” said NIFA Director Carrie Castille. “NIFA’s integrated approach to enhancing food safety practices includes multi-state coordination, community outreach and collaborative projects that enable small farm operators, wholesalers and small-scale processors to get the support they need.”

Alabama Extension’s Janice Hall said the project will develop a food safety training program to empower limited-resource, minority farmers in Alabama’s Black Belt region.

“These small producers farm in rich, fertile soils,” said Hall, who currently serves as the Macon County Extension coordinator. “But they lack access and adequate information to take best advantage of this resource.”

Hall, who served as regional food safety agent for a number of years, said the project will fund food safety training and opportunities to underserved communities in 13 Black Belt counties.

Counties Involved

  • Autauga
  • Bullock
  • Butler
  • Dallas
  • Elmore
  • Greene
  • Hale
  • Lowndes
  • Macon
  • Marengo
  • Montgomery
  • Perry
  • Wilcox

Food safety grant expands Alabama Extension’s reach

Alabama Extension Director Mike Phillips said grant awards like the $300,000 NIFA food safety grant allow Extension to serve more residents.

“Grants make up about 15 percent of our total budget,” Phillips said. “These funds enable Extension to reach more Alabamians with research-based information that can enhance their lives and businesses.”

Grants and contracts comprise one of  Alabama Extension’s funding streams. State and federal appropriations are the other primary funding sources.

Partnerships enhance efforts

The Communities Improvement Association in Montgomery wanted to offer training for farmers in the communities they serve and reached out to Hall to write the initial grant proposal.

“The Association will be a critical partner in delivering these programs to farmers,” Hall said. “Many of the training workshops will be held at the Association’s community center.”

The partnership also includes Tuskegee University Extension because the project overlaps many counties served by Tuskegee Extension.

Crafting training and materials for target audience

Hall said before actual farmer training begins, the team will adapt educational materials and resources as well as delivery methods to meet the needs of low vision, low hearing and low literacy audiences.

“We will provide large print curricula materials and use magnifying tools, sound systems and large screens positioned for optimal viewing in our in-person meetings,” she said. “These accommodations will also be available virtually for those unable to attend face-to-face.”

Participants will learn how to safely handle produce from field to processing.

Training topics

  • Water quality and use
  • Land use
  • Worker health and hygiene
  • Wildlife management
  • Sanitation and postharvest practices
  • Home-based business practices
  • Processing jams and jellies

Maggie Lawrence, Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities Extension

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