Supporting Community with Retail and Institutional Food Service; Keeping it Safe, Legal and Local

Final Report for ENC02-068

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2002: $42,206.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $2,688.00
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Audrey Arner
Land Stewardship Project
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Project Information

Abstract:

This was an initiative to clarify Minnesota requirements for using locally produced foods in retail and institutional foodservice. It was determined that direct sales from farmers/producers can be considered an “approved source” meeting food safety and legal requirements. Three fact sheets were developed with state agencies: 1) Sale of Shell Eggs to Grocery Stores and Restaurants 2) Sale of Meat and Poultry Products 3) Providing Safe Locally-Grown Produce to Commercial Food Establishments and the General Public. These fact sheets are used by Extension in food manager certification training, by farmers, and other agricultural educators to support the use and sale of locally produced foods.

Project Objectives:

The objectives and short-term performance targets for this one-year grant were:
1) Provide agencies and food service providers with information and resources that will enable them to overcome barriers to purchasing local foods, and assist them in supporting community food systems with the following outputs:

a) Development of interpretation and published guidelines for farmers, restaurants and institutions for selling and purchase of locally produced foods within the State of MN, which can be used as a template for other states, recognizing that regulatory requirements vary by state.

a) Development of guideline materials for use in a food manager certification course and institutional foodservice management class.

Short-term outcome: extension educators will have the skills to explain the safety and regulation issues of regional food systems to institutions wishing to purchase local foods, to local producers, and the public in general. Extension educators will know other food safety and regulatory resources for referral.

c) Create partnerships and relationships for development of curriculum guidelines, workshops, and institutional information packets.

2. Sponsor an educator training workshop and conference: “Supporting Community with Retail and Institutional Foods; Keeping it Safe Legal and Local!” that could be a model for other regions.

Short-term outcome: a) 50 people, including 20 extension educators, 10 producers, 10 community members, and 10 agricultural professionals, including food safety regulators, will gain awareness of what a regional food system is, why local foods are important to community sustainability, barriers for using local foods, safety and regulatory information, and consumer and institutional attitudes about locally produced foods.

b) After the workshop, based on knowledge received, they will indicate motivation to share this information when they create local educational programs.

3. Presentation to Institutional Foodservice Class at University of MN, Crookston on purchasing regionally produced foods.

4. Informational 1-to-1 presentations to 25 regional foodservice institutions on guidelines for safely and legally using locally produced foods in foodservice

5. Dissemination of information and materials on websites.

We expected that the impacts of this one-year grant would continue with the following intermediate- and long-term outcomes:

Intermediate Outcomes:
1) 15 educators will apply developed guidelines on locally produced foods in Serv-Safe curriculum.
2) Educators will become guest speakers for Institutional Food Management course using the curriculum created through this grant.

Long-Term Outcomes:
1) Serv-Safe curriculum in Minnesota and other states will address safe and legal ways to purchase and use regionally produced foods.
2) Institutional foodservice curriculum will incorporate the same.
3) Extension educators are facilitating local food use within western Minnesota region.
4) Educators will become resources for local educational programs about food systems.
5) Extension Educators can be “train the trainers” for extension educators in other Regional Sustainable Development Partnership regions of Minnesota to support regional food systems projects.

Introduction:

An institutional survey done as part of The Pride of the Prairie Community Food Systems initiative in western Minnesota indicated that a high percentage of institutional and retail foodservice providers are interested in purchasing local foods but think it is illegal.

They want to do this to:
1) support the local economy
2) support family farmers
3) provide fresher, higher quality food and serve a niche for organic produce and sustainably produced foods such as meats produced without antibiotics and added hormones.

But, the majority of the institutional food purchasers surveyed believed it was illegal or against food safety codes to purchase locally produced foods directly from a farmer.

Every food service establishment is required to have one staff person attend a food manager certification class. Often, extension educators teach this class. The current curriculum for the Food Manager Certification course addresses food purchasing with the recommendation to buy from an “approved” source. This has often been interpreted to mean that food can only be purchased safely and legally from large institutional foodservice distributors. Minnesota Extension Educators, Department of Health Food Safety Inspectors and regulators from the Department of Agriculture had varied interpretations of state regulations for institutional use of locally produced foods, generally direct marketed by the farmer/producer.

We identified the need to clarify the regulations regarding institutional use of locally produced foods. In addition we wanted to increase agricultural educators’ awareness and knowledge about consumer and foodservice providers’ interest in using locally produced foods. We also wanted to shift agricultural educators’ and food safety regulators’ attitude about the validity of offering locally produced foods as a safe and viable option for foodservice operations. We are aiming to increase the ability for agricultural educators to support local producers and food service providers with information and resources on providing locally produced foods in a safe and efficient manner to institutional and retail foodservice establishments.

Literature Review:
a) Serv-Safe Essentials- Published by National Restaurant Association Education Foundation, 1999
b) Hamilton, Neil D.; The Legal Guide for Direct Farm Marketing, prepared under a SARE grant, June 1999
c) Minnesota Food Code Fact Sheet 9/19/01, Minnesota Department of Agriculture
d) Pride of the Prairie Institutional Polling Summary, Land Stewardship Project, 2002

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Roselyn Biermaier
  • Lynn Mader

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

A committee was formed of grant collaborators and people interested in clarifying the food safety and legal requirements for selling locally produced foods to retail and institutional foodservice.
The committee members were:
Lynn Mader, Food System Consultant working for Land Stewardship Project (LSP)
Roselyn Biermaier, University of Minnesota Extension (UME)
Sue Hibberd, Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), Environmental Health Services Department, Coordinator Food Manager Certification Program
Paul Hugunin, Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), Marketing
Lorna Girard, MDA, Dairy and Food Inspection Division
Kevin Elfering, MDA Dairy and Food Inspection Division
Helene Murray, Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA)
Mary Hanks, MDA, Energy and Sustainable Agriculture Program
Ken Myers, University of Minnesota Crookston, Hotel, Restaurant & Institutional Management Program
Dorothy Rosemeier, University of Minnesota, West Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership
Julie Bloor, Sustainable Farming Association (SFA), Restaurant Forager
Mary Jo Forbord, Farmer and Dietitian

The committee met initially and concurred that there was confusion about interpretation of state food safety requirements for using locally produced foods in retail and institutional foodservice establishments. Part of this confusion was due to the fact that the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health share responsibility for the standards and there was a wide variety of interpretation of the regulations. One area in particular was the definition of what is an “approved” vendor. Direct farm marketing in some cases was not considered an “approved source.” A work plan with monthly meetings was agreed on to clarify the regulations and create several fact sheets to use as a resource for regulators, farmers, institutions, and consumers. Once fact sheets were completed, committee members agreed to present information at conferences throughout the year. Roselyn Biermaier agreed to incorporate fact sheet content into Food Manager Certification and Recertification curriculum. Lynn Mader agreed to teach a class in Ken Myers, Hotel Restaurant and Institution Management course. Lynn Mader and LSP agreed to share fact sheets with institutions that had been polled the previous year about their use of local foods. The committee agreed to have the fact sheets published on web pages and look for other outreach activities.

Outreach and Publications

Information products from this report are available from the NCR-SARE office. Please call 402.472.7081 for copies.

A. The committee, along with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Minnesota Department of Public Health, developed three fact sheets. These are listed on websites and used as an educational resource.
1. Support Fact Sheet for Sale of Shell Eggs to Grocery Stores and Restaurants
2. Fact Sheet for Sale of Meat and Poultry Products to Grocery Stores and Restaurants
3. Providing Safe Locally-Grown Produce to Commercial Food Establishments and the General Public

B. Pride of the Prairie Local Food Guide 2003 edition -- a listing of over 100 local farmers in western Minnesota. Includes information about reasons to purchase local foods, a seasonal food guide, and reference to accessing the fact sheets on page 64. Distribution: 3,000 copies in western Minnesota for 2003-2004 growing season.

C. Minnesota Dietetic Association Spring 2003 Newsletter Article written by Lynn Mader and Mary Jo Forbord. “Pride of the Prairie: Connecting Consumers, Dietitians and Local Farmers” referenced the SARE project and the fact sheets with an address for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture website. Distribution: 500 Minnesota dietitians.

D. List-Serve Distribution of Fact Sheets to: the Community Food Security Farm to College list-serve, University of Minnesota Sust-Ag listserve.

E. Minnesota Dietetic Association Annual Meeting, April 29, Mankato, MN – Breakout Session, “Growing Sustainably: Healthy Food and Agriculture in Minnesota” presented by committee members Lynn Mader and Mary Jo Forbord. Fact sheets will be introduced and handed out. Audience is approximately 60 dietitians.

F. Ongoing dissemination of the fact sheets to Food Manager Certification training classes within Minnesota sponsored by Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Extension along with website access.

Outcomes and impacts:

The potential for increased dissemination of information from the fact sheets is great if the fact sheets continue to be integrated into Food Manager Certification and Recertification curriculum on a statewide basis. The Minnesota Department of Health has disseminated the fact sheets to all food manager certification trainers in the state, and supports the wider dissemination of the fact sheets. There is a potential for 20,000 food managers to be introduced to the fact sheets annually in Minnesota.

Understanding that there are legal and safe ways to purchase and use locally produced foods does not translate directly into sales of locally produced foods, but it removes an initial barrier to their sale. Dissemination of the fact sheets raises awareness and allows consideration of locally produced foods in retail and institutional foodservice.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

1a. Guidelines were developed by the committee in the form of fact sheets that can be used by farmers, restaurants, institutions, food safety educators, and food safety inspectors that are useful as a tool for other states.
Three fact sheets were developed by the committee.
-Support Fact Sheet for Sale of Shell Eggs to Grocery Stores and Restaurants
-Fact Sheet for Sale of Meat and Poultry Products to Grocery Stores and Restaurants
-Providing Safe Locally-Grown Produce to Commercial Food Establishments and the General Public.

The fact sheets were shared as a model for other states in The Toolkit for State and Local Food Policy Council, which is a project of the Drake University Agricultural Law Center in partnership with the USDA Risk Management Agency. The toolkit and reference to the fact sheets was introduced at the Food Policy Conference in Des Moines Iowa, September 2003.

1b. Roselyn Biermaier, Regional Extension Educator, trained six other Food Manager Certification Trainers on the integration of the fact sheets into their Food Manager Certification and Recertification classes. The fact sheets were used when teaching about using “approved sources” of food suppliers. Since the fact sheets were developed, 750 food managers have learned about purchasing locally grown food from these fact sheets (February through December 2003). The fact sheets will continue to be part of this curriculum. It is intended that the distribution and use of these fact sheets throughout the state of Minnesota will help food establishments know that they can safely and legally serve locally grown foods.

1c. Members of the committee collaborated and presented information at several conferences throughout the year of the grant.

Minnesota Organic and Grazing Conference, January 24-25, 2003, St. Cloud Civic Center, St. Cloud, Minnesota. Break–out session, Meat, Poultry and Produce Processing and Handling Laws for Restaurant and Institutional Foodservice. Presented by Roselyn Biermaier, University of Minnesota Regional Extension Educator and Kevin Elfering, Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Total attendance 40. Farmers – 30, Agricultural Professionals-5, Extension- 5.

Minnesota Environmental Health Association Annual Meeting, May 1, 2003 – Safe and Legal Use of Local Foods, Grandview Lodge, Brainerd, MN, presented by Roselyn Biermaier, University of Minnesota Regional Extension Educator and Brian Erickson from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Grown program. Fifty of the 80 Food Safety Inspectors at the conference selected this breakout session.

2. An educator training workshop and conference was held -- Local Foods from Soil to Table, held June 26, 2003, West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris, MN – sponsored by Pride of the Prairie, a collaborative effort led by The Land Stewardship Project. This was a day-long conference intended to bring together a broad range of participants in Local Food Systems efforts to experience learning from both farmers and educators. The lunch served was a local foods meal. Included was the session “Local Foods Are Safe, Legal, Tasty and Available” presented by Roselyn Biermaier, University of Minnesota Extension, which presented the fact sheet information to the 90 attendees comprised of 30 producers, 10 food service professionals including restaurant owners and dietitians, five extension staff, 15 university professors and students, 15 agricultural related non-profit staff, and five community members and media.

Evaluations from the conference included these comments under the section “What was the most valuable thing you learned today?”
- Produce fact sheet. Easy to read.
- Fact sheets – very helpful.
- Able to sell produce locally.
- Fact sheet in easy to use format.

3. Presentation to an Institutional Foodservice Class - Lynn Mader was guest lecturer at the University of Minnesota Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management class of Professor Ken Myers on March 24, 2003. Twenty-four students were taught about regional food purchasing; safe and legal requirements. Twelve students were on-site in Marshall, MN and twelve in Crookston by ITV hookup. Curriculum was developed with fact sheets as the basis.

4. We planned to do informational one-on-one presentations to 25 regional foodservice institutions on guidelines for safely and legally using locally produced foods in foodservice. We revised this plan by:

Inviting the 25 regional foodservice institutions to the Soil to Table Conference. Staff of six regional institutions attended the conference; Catering with Class, Appleton, MN; Culinary Seasons, Willmar, MN; Pomme de Terre Co-op, Morris, MN; Common Cup Café, Morris, MN; McKenzie’s Market, Hermann, MN; Bergins Market, Milan, MN as well as staff from two Twin Cities restaurants.

One-on-one visits were done with six institutions; Java River, Montevideo, MN; Valentinos Restaurant, Montevideo; MN, Trailways Café, Montevideo, MN; Prairie Inn, Morris, MN; and Sodexho Food Service UMM, Morris,MN; Calf Fiend Café, Redwood Falls, MN.

Letters introducing the fact sheets were sent to 10 other institutions.

It is intended that local farmers, who are developing a local foods distribution system, will use the fact sheets as they make sales calls to foodservice operations.

5. Dissemination of information and materials on websites: The fact sheets are available on six websites:
University of Minnesota Extension, listed under food safety
www.extension.umn.edu/foodsafety/components/producers.htm

Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA) -- Direct marketing of meat, eggs, produce at www.misa.umn.edu/resources

Minnesota Department of Agriculture listed under food safety and linked from the Minnesota Grown site at www.mda.state.mn.us/foodsafe.htm

Minnesota Department of Health listed under Food Safety Fact Sheets at www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/food/fs

Land Stewardship Project at www.landstewardshipproject.org

Pride of the Prairie website under resources at www.prideoftheprairie.org

Recommendations:

Future Recommendations

Areas Needing Additional Study
The initial discussions that the committee had about safety and legal requirements for using locally produced foods in foodservice institutions confirmed that there are misperceptions and distrust of alternative production and distribution systems used by local farmers. When sharing this information outside of Minnesota, we have heard that people working in foodservice in other states have the same misconceptions, which are not generally addressed in their food manager safety training.

This work raised an interest in furthering the education and clarification of the new organic food and production standards within the departments of Agriculture and Public Health and for the general public. This work also raised questions about the general public’s understanding and misunderstanding of agriculture production practices in relation to the health and safety of their food and would be an area of future study.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.