Food safety steps for successful community meals

June 27th, 2015 1:28 am

First Posted: 5/20/2013

Memorial Day weekend officially begins the summer celebrations. Everywhere you look, folks are raising money for community events. Most usually involve selling food. The USDA gives seven food safety steps for successful community meals. Here they are:

Plan ahead — Make sure the location meets your needs. Be sure you have enough oven, stovetop, refrigerator, freezer and work space. If there isn’t enough equipment, change the menu to fit the location or find another location. Find out if there’s a source of clean water. If not, bring water for preparation and cleaning.

Store and prepare food safely - Refrigerate or freeze perishable food within two hours of shopping or preparing; 1 hour when the temperature is above 90 degrees F. So, if there isn’t ample refrigeration, then serve a non-perishable food. For instance, instead of selling potato salad, sell a tossed green salad with a canned three bean salad.

Find separate preparation areas in the work space for raw and cooked food. Have certain volunteers working with raw meat and others working with rolls and salads, otherwise known as ready-to-eat foods.

Separate cooking and serving utensils for raw and ready-to-eat foods. Never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that held raw food.

Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and work surfaces frequently with hot, soapy water. If there isn’t hot water available, choose disposable.

Everyone needs to wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and after using the bathroom or leaving the food stand and returning for volunteer work.

Cook food to safe minimum internal temperatures — it’s the only way to tell if harmful bacteria are destroyed.

Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of raw meats. Cook meats to these internal temperatures: ground beef 160 degrees, poultry breasts, legs and halves 165 degrees and casseroles 165 degrees. Check temperature in several places to be sure food is cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature.

Never partially cook food for finishing later because you increase the risk of bacterial growth.

Transport food safely — Keep hot food hot. Keep cold food Ccold. If volunteers bring food to be sold, that food should be keep cold in a cooler with ice packs, then if need be, reheat to 165 degrees. Or if serving hot, keep at or above 140 degrees F. Wrap well and place in an insulated container.

Keep food out of the “danger zone” (40-140 degrees F) - Keep hot food hot at or above 140 degrees F. Place cooked food in chafing dishes, preheated steam tables, warming trays and/or slow cookers. Keep cold food cold at or below 40 degrees F. Place food in containers on ice.

6. When in doubt, throw it out. Discard food left out at room temperature for more than two hours; one hour when the temperature is above 90 degrees F. A volunteer should be assigned to be the food police.

If you are overseeing a large food fundraiser, take a look at some fun activities to do with volunteers before the event to raise awareness of the importance of food safety. Visit or call our office for a copy. We have glow lights available for loan. Give us a call at 1-888-825-1701.

Here is an easy item to sell and a healthy addition to your food sales. Just triple the recipe and serve in a blue cup with a slice of red pepper.

Hummus and pita triangles

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1⁄2 teaspoon cumin

1 dash cayenne pepper

2 garlic clove (minced)

1⁄2 cup yogurt (plain, non-fat)

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons cilantro (chopped)

Mash garbanzo beans in a food processor or with a potato masher. Add remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. Chill one hour or overnight.

Adapted from: