The Significance of Food Safety
At Ozarks Food Harvest, food safety is a top priority. We provide 17 million meals through our programs and hunger relief partners each year—and we go to great measures to ensure that all of the food for those meals is completely safe for consumption.
Our operations, member services and volunteer team staff all receive proper food safety instruction soon after they are hired. They learn about the best prevention for common foodborne illnesses, how to keep food out of the temperature danger zone and about food allergies, proper sanitation and so much more.
In our warehouse, all frozen and refrigerated food is checked multiple times for proper temperature as it is taken off the truck, sorted and put back on the truck to be delivered to our hunger relief partners. We do everything that we can to guarantee the food arrives to our food pantries and meal programs in peak condition.
All of our 270 hunger-relief partners are also required to receive food safety training. Two people from each organization must be food-safety certified at all times, and certification must be renewed every three years. This free training is offered once a month at The Food Bank. Feeding sites have the option of obtaining certification through the Greene County Health Center.
To make sure partner agencies are following food safety guidelines, Ozarks Food Harvest staff members make routine site visits. They check temperature logs, food storage methods, pest control records and more to ensure the food is safe every step of the way.
“We make sure that our partners are following all of the food safety procedures they learned in their training,” said Terra Lamb, agency capacity manager. “Many of the people served do not have access to affordable healthcare if they do get sick from a foodborne illness. We want to make sure our agencies are serving the food safely.”
Knowledge about expiration date extensions is also vital to Ozarks Food Harvest and our partners. Across America, millions of pounds of food are wasted each year because of confusion about the dates on food packaging. In fact, much of the food that we receive is already past the date on the packaging—but it’s still perfectly safe to eat.
We work closely with food manufacturers to know a product’s true expiration date. For example, dry cereal has a six-month extension, and eggs are safe 30 days past the date on the carton. As our volunteers sort products, our volunteer supervisors double-check their work and make sure food isn’t wasted. When we aren’t able to keep a certain product, we compost it or send it to a local hog farmer.
Because we are able to accept food with expiration date extensions, we can feed more hungry families and decrease food waste. By adhering to proper food safety methods, we are able to provide more meals in the Ozarks. If you would like to learn more about Ozarks Food Harvest’s food safety procedures, feel free to give me a call. I would love to help you learn more about how these measures help us Transform Hunger into Hope.