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Willmar teacher studies food safety at FDA workshop

West Central Tribune - 10/21/2017

Oct. 21--WILLMAR -- Students at Willmar Senior High School will benefit this year from an intensive workshop attended by one of their teachers over the summer.

Family and consumer sciences teacher Christina Kurhajetz was one of 30 teachers from across the nation to attend a week-long workshop on food safety sponsored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA paid for the workshop and the participants' travel and expenses.

Kurhajetz said she had heard about the workshop on a Facebook page for family and consumer sciences teachers and decided to apply. She was in Washington, D.C., from July 16-23.

She returned from her week with expanded knowledge and lots of ideas for projects with her students to teach them how to bring food from the farm to the table and keep it safe. She received FDA's "Science and our Food Supply" curriculum and a $500 grant to purchase classroom supplies for the lessons.

The group of 15 middle school and 15 high school teachers will be expected to share their knowledge in their states, she said.

"The idea is to share the information with other teachers," Kurhajetz said. She already has plans to speak at regional and state conferences. She can be a resource for other teachers who are exploring the curriculum, too.

Kurhajetz said the workshop was eye-opening in many respects. The teachers worked with FDA scientists and studied under a University of Maryland microbiology professor.

"It took me to a level I did not even know I was capable of," she said. "I don't have a science background."

The first activity she did with students this school year used Glo Germ, a powder that shows how much bacteria is left after washing. It can be used on hands or on other objects.

Kurhajetz sprinkled Glo Germ on the countertops and put her students to work wiping them down "to show kids how well they clean," she said. In many cases, the middle was clean, but a UV light indicated flowing edges that didn't get as much attention.

The curriculum covers several topics -- understanding bacteria; farm; processing and transportation; retail and home; and outbreak and future technology.

Kurhajetz said she can offer teachers guidance on lectures and activities for their students.

Even if a teacher has time for just a couple lessons from the curriculum, "it gets the word out," she said.

"I feel more knowledgeable teaching food safety," she said. "I feel more comfortable now that I know more."

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(c)2017 West Central Tribune (Willmar, Minn.)

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