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The Power of Partnership – During COVID-19

The Power of Partnership – During COVID-19

The COVID-19 Pandemic impacts on health, livelihoods, and food systems have been devastating. Slowly these areas are rebuilding.  The Nassau County Cooperative Extension Service Family and Consumer Sciences Agent Meg McAlpine was there for local food establishments, helping them rebuild. Through a strong partnership with the Nassau County Chamber of Commerce, the extension service provided up-to-date research and resources regarding restaurant re-opening guidelines.

At the end of April, Florida’s Governor announced restaurants could re-start dine-in service at 25% capacity.  Nassau County’s Chamber of Commerce President, Regina Dungan, knew who to reach out to as a resource for educating local restaurants about safely opening their doors for in-service dining. Regina contacted Meg, requesting a web-based workshop about keeping food safe, employees safe, and customers safe for local food service establishments.

Regina contacted Meg because Meg had established a partnership with her and the Chamber long before the pandemic occurred. When Meg became a certified ServSafe,® Food Safety Educator (over ten years ago), she immediately reached out to the Chamber, providing information about upcoming manager and food handler certification classes. Meg sent monthly food safety class program announcements to the Chamber, who then sent this information to its membership.

Five days after speaking with Regina, Meg presented a live web-based workshop, “Best Practices for Food Establishments – Re-Opening Guidelines during COVID-19.”  A total of 15 managers participated in the training. After completing the training, each participant received a UF/IFAS Certificate of Completion plus an approval rating from the Chamber.  The post-program evaluation indicated 85% of participants gained knowledge about new food safety guidelines and planned to make changes in practices.  Planned behavior changes included modifying their restaurants’ layout, displaying signage for customers and staff promoting mask-wearing, physical distancing, and frequent hand washing.  Additionally, 100% of participants planned to utilize CDC’s COVID-19 publication “CDC’s Daily Checklist for Managers of Restaurants and Bars.”

Resulting from the partnership with Nassau County Extension Service, the Chamber provided its members with resources to help manage the impacts of COVID-19. Chamber members gained knowledge about how to safely re-open their food operations but also did so with confidence.