Judy Harrison, a professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences Department of Foods and Nutrition at the University of Georgia, was selected to receive the 2018 Outstanding Engagement Award from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities’ (APLU) Board on Human Sciences.
At APLU’s annual meeting in November, Harrison received this national honor for her work in implementing food safety initiatives and educational programs for children, farmers and farmers market vendors. Her food safety education curriculum has been used across Georgia, nationwide and internationally.
As a foods specialist for UGA Cooperative Extension, her outreach work with children includes two food safety programs that she created. “Smart Kids Fight BAC!” is a program that includes a four-step process to keep food safe. It contains activity workbooks, science, math and language arts problems that address the topic. The program has been used in 27 states, according to Harrison.
Another one of her outreach efforts, “Wash Your Paws, Georgia!,” is a program for young children that encourages and emphasizes the importance of proper handwashing. Harrison’s commitment to children’s health stems from the age group’s vulnerability to foodborne disease.
“Young children and the elderly are especially susceptible to foodborne illness,” Harrison said. “If we can prevent cases and deaths then that’s a very important task.”
More recently, Harrison has worked on food safety education for farmers in Georgia. Harrison said her main objective is to help enhance the safety of locally grown produce. This training is divided into two parts, instructing farmers and instructing the managers of small farmers markets.
These courses were delivered face-to-face and are now available on the national Extension website. The online courses have now reached eight countries, 17 states and the District of Columbia.
“We’ve been delivering Produce Safety Alliance grower training for about 750 growers in Georgia and we will continue to deliver those programs,” Harrison said.
Celia Barss, a local farmer at Woodland Garden Organic Farms in Winterville, Georgia, thought the class was very beneficial and made the concepts easy to understand.
“The information was really great the way they presented it,” Barss said. “The class made it feel less overwhelming because sometimes the regulations you have to meet feel insurmountable, so we are now doing our best to implement what we can on our farm.”
Currently, Harrison is working on a project in the UGA Institute on Human Development and Disability to execute food safety training for military veterans who want to go into farming and sell their products at farmers markets.
She’s also the editor of a 2017 book published by Springer, “Food Safety for Farmers Markets: A Guide to Enhancing Safety of Local Foods.”
Harrison’s creativity in developing sustainable and enjoyable initiatives is evident in the reach of her programs. Her curriculum has reached 810 farmers and 260 market managers in the U.S. and internationally.
“I enjoy what I do because I have found people to be very receptive to training — they don’t want to make people sick,” Harrison said. “It’s been very rewarding, and getting to help keep families and consumers safe is a win-win.”
For more information about food safety programs available through UGA Cooperative Extension, visit extension.uga.edu/topic-areas/food-health/commercial-home-food-safety.html.