Steps for successful and food safe community meals

Organizers of community meals need to be attentive to the food safety practices of volunteer cooks and servers.

Many nonprofit organizations plan and hold community meals. Some are fish fry’s, summer suppers and many other gatherings for the community. Organizers of these community meals need to be attentive to the food safety practices of volunteer cooks and servers.

Michigan State University Extension and the United States Department of Agriculture offers these action steps for successful community meals. Always practice the four cornerstones of food safety - Clean, Chill, Separate and Cook.

Plan ahead

Does the space selected have enough counter space, ovens, refrigeration and freezers? Is clean water for food preparation, drinking and washing available and sufficient?

Store and prepare food safely

  • Hand Washing: Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, after using the bathroom, changing diapers or handling pets.
  • Cutting boards: Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and work surfaces frequently with hot, soapy water.
  • Keep food cold: Refrigerate or freeze perishable food within 2 hours of shopping or preparing; 1 hour when the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Separate: Prepare raw foods and ready to eat food in separate prep areas and never place cooked food on the same plate that held raw food.

Cook foods to minimum internal temperatures, this includes meat, poultry, casseroles, etc.

Keep food out of the “temperature danger zone” by using a food thermometer and  this chart to guide you.

If transporting food make certain that hot foods stay hot and cold foods remain cold.

Use a food thermometer to check.

Reheating food

Food should be hot and steaming and register 165 degrees Fahrenheit on a food thermometer.

Following these food safety practices will ensure that the community meal serves safe food and that foodborne illness doesn’t show up as an unwanted guest.

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