Not all of Virginia Tech’s outreach efforts take place far from home. One faculty member in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is leading a four-week campaign to help students at the university’s Blacksburg campus stay safe and pathogen-free when cooking and storing food.

“The purpose of the campaign is to educate students about the importance of following proper food safety guidelines, such as washing hands and keeping your refrigerator at a safe temperature to store leftovers,” said Renee Boyer, assistant professor of food science and technology and consumer food safety specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Each week of the campaign features a hands-on educational program designed for college-age students. During the week of March 19, McComas Gym patrons enjoyed “Clean: Don’t Get Caught Dirty Handed,” a booth with educational materials about proper hand washing. Upcoming programs, all of which will be held on the Drillfield, include:

  • “Cook: When the Temp Is Right, Take a Bite”--Students will discover the correct way to use a meat thermometer and receive free mini-hamburgers on Wednesday, March 28, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • “Chill: Are You Cool Enough?”--Free drink Koozies will be handed out to educate students about correct refrigerator temperatures on Thursday, April 5, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • “Food Safety Educational Challenge”--A food safety game with prizes, including refrigerator and meat thermometers, will conclude the campaign on Wednesday, April 11, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.?

Rutgers University developed the food safety campaign with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and solicited other universities, including Virginia Tech, to implement the programs on their campuses. Before the campaign started, Boyer conducted a survey of a random sampling of Virginia Tech students to test their prior knowledge of basic food safety procedures. Later in April, she will conduct a post-campaign survey with another random sampling of students and send this data to Rutgers University for analysis.

Researchers hope this information will help them develop programs to better educate college-age students about food safety. The ultimate goal is to reduce the frequency of food-borne illnesses on college and university campuses around the country.

About Virginia Cooperative Extension

Virginia Cooperative Extension brings the resources of Virginia’s land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth. Through a system of on-campus specialists and locally based agents, it delivers education in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, community viability, and 4-H youth development. With a network of faculty at two universities, 107 county and city offices, 13 agricultural research and Extension centers, and six 4-H educational centers, Virginia Cooperative Extension provides solutions to the problems facing Virginians today.