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For Your Health, Food Safety Begins at Home

For Your Health, Food Safety Begins at Home is a five lesson curriculum designed to teach consumers about safe food handling at home. The following is the introduction to this training curriculum.  To access the entire complete curriculum download the Adobe Acrobat PDF file.


Older adults are at an increased risk for foodborne illness. Small doses of harmful microorganisms can make them very ill and could even result in death. The goal of this program is to teach older adults how they can reduce their risk for foodborne illness.


For Your Health, Food Safety Begins at Home has been designed to teach older adults how to safely prepare their own meals. Older adults are an appropriate audience for food safety education because they have health and social characteristics placing them at a greater risk for foodborne illness than does the adult population in general.

The program consists of four sessions, and each takes approximately 60 - 90 minutes depending on the number of activities used. Each session has a short information-sharing component, two or more activities, take-home handouts, and one or more take-home tips. It is intended to be delivered in a group setting rather than to individuals. The format lends itself to short meetings that you organize or that already exist. The For Your Health, Food Safety Begins at Home curriculum consists of this guide, which contains all of the print materials that you need to carry out the four sessions.


Solicit help from other sources to plan your program. For example, contact:

  • Other government agencies,
  • Volunteer organizations (Kiwanis, Moose, VFW), or
  • Church groups.


Each session focuses on one of the Fight BAC!TM messages -- Clean, Separate, Cook, or Chill. The delivery format can be four consecutive sessions of 60 - 90 minutes, depending on the number of activities used each, two consecutive sessions of 2-3 hours each, or one 4-6 hour session. Make your decision based on your audience and the availability of the program site. Times and locations are issues that are important. Give people a list of session topics, dates, times, and locations to prevent confusion.

Also consider space requirements for each of the sessions. If participants are asked to perform a small group activity or watch a demonstration, consider the space and equipment you will need for the session, such as a room with tables and adequate display space. Try to ensure that the program site is comfortable, easy to access, and quiet. Also, consider how accessible it is to those who might have physical impairments.


Preparing the program announcement is important. It should stress the benefits to be gained by program participants. Design the announcement so that it looks inviting and helpful. A sample program announcement is included at the end of this section.

Here are some potential locations for recruiting older adults. Recruitment of participants should be done after discussion with the manager or coordinator of the organization or by posting a program announcement at sites which older persons frequent.

Community Organizations

  • AARP and other retiree organizations
  • Council or Department on Aging
  • Other local programs such as Foster Grandparents, Senior Companions, and RSVP
  • County Department of Social Services
  • County Health Department
  • Extension and Community Association clubs
  • Support groups related to health and family care issues
  • VFW and American Legion posts
  • Senior centers
  • Social Security offices


  • Beauty and barber shops
  • Churches
  • Hospitals, clinics and doctors' offices
  • Grocery stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Public transportation sites, such as bus stations and taxi stands
  • Senior citizen housing
  • Public libraries
  • Bingo halls

Registering Participants

Set up a system for registering participants. The system may consist of a printed roster on which people can add their names or you may want to have participants call in to your office to register. Once registered, send a reminder to attend card or call the registrants. Solicit volunteers to help recruit, register, and remind participants.


Ideally, all four sessions should be taught. Food safety is a complex topic and individuals need to understand all of the controls that they have to prevent foodborne illness. Foodborne illness can occur by the application of only one unsafe food handling practices.

It is important to always begin with Session 1 -- CLEAN: Wash Hands and Surfaces Often. One of the activities within this session is the administration of the risk assessment instrument -- Are You at Risk for Foodborne Illness? The authors believe that increasing an individual's awareness of his/her risk for foodborne illness is the first step in a successful food safety education program. It is hypothesized that if an individual perceives that he/she is at a greater risk for foodborne illness, he/she will be more likely to adopt safe food handling practices. Therefore, when conducting this program always begin with Session 1. This session along with the Fight BAC!® messages is the foundation of this four-session program. After completion of Session 1, the remaining sessions can be taught in any order.


The session description is designed to give you a plan to follow. It includes information about the time needed, materials needed, background information, and a recommended way to conduct the session.


  • Arrange for greeters to welcome participants to the program.
  • Have participants make themselves colorful nametags to wear at every session.
  • Start each session with some music from the past, such as Big Band or Swing, or another interesting icebreaker that you develop.

Room Arrangements:

  • Arrange the seating to maximize eye contact between you and the group and within the group.
  • Circles are often helpful because no one is sitting at the back.
  • Make sure that people have adequate space on a table surface so they can write with ease when completing a pen and paper activity.
  • Try to use a room that is warm and friendly looking.
  • Provide water and other refreshments, if possible.

Conducting the Sessions:

  • The key to a successful program is to involve the participants in the session. All sessions are centered on one or more activities. Adult learners need to be involved in the teaching session by asking them questions and using hands-on activities.
  • Encourage people to be active learners -- let them ask questions, discuss an issue, and offer personal comments on a problem.
  • Give positive reinforcement and encouragement for correct answers.
  • To stimulate their interest, open the session by asking the participants a question about the topic of the day or ask them what they have been doing differently since you last met.
  • If you are short on time and have an actively involved group, try to include the most important sections of the session plan and ask participants to read the handouts carefully at home. If they have a question, tell them to contact you individually after the class.
  • Try to solicit input from the "quiet" participants.
  • Always tell participants where to reach you after the session.
  • Note any particular questions you cannot answer on a card and tell people you will get the question answered by an expert.
  • Be prepared to answer questions in a brief fashion or promise to look up the information and report back to the group. It is acceptable to say "I don't know." Just follow up on the questions soon as you can after the session.
  • Review the materials from the previous session to tie together all of the pieces.
  • Learning is a partnership between the learners and the instructor. Such interaction builds commitment for change. Be respectful of the learner's views and beliefs. Some participants might not think safe food handling is as important as you do and will express that opinion.
  • Have fun!

Factors that can affect educational approaches with older adults:

  • decreased endurance,
  • increased fatigue,
  • decreased bladder and kidney efficiency,
  • increased sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures,
  • increased farsightedness,
  • declining adaptation to light and darkness,
  • increased wisdom,
  • slower reaction time, and
  • changing social roles.

Thus, utilize the following teaching strategies when working with older adults:

  • provide a comfortable physical setting,
  • vary teaching techniques,
  • encourage use of memory techniques,
  • invite input from the audience,
  • enhance visual and auditory acuity,
  • use appropriate colors for print materials -- colors in the red, orange, and yellow families are easier to see than blue, green and purple colors,
  • use larger font sizes to prepare visuals,
  • schedule frequent breaks, and
  • give positive reinforcement and encouragement for correct answers.


Take a little time at the end of the program to distribute certificates to the participants. This is a way to congratulate the participants for their attention and interest in learning new information.

If you have any questions or comments concerning the curriculum or the information presented, please contact Dr. Angela Fraser by e-mail at [email protected].

Download the complete curriculum in Adobe PDF file format >>

Supplemental handouts to deliver curriculum

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