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Food safety success, in Spanish

No longer lost in translation: Extension serves up food safety success, in Spanish


Extension educator Glenyce Peterson-Vangsness (left) partners with Lori Hoeft, Courtesy Corporation – McDonald's; Bill Kass, Olmsted County Public Health; and instructor Claudia Diez to create more effective courses for Spanish speaking food industry workers.

The need to train Spanish-speaking restaurant workers in food safety practices has increased significantly in recent years, and the trend is expected to continue. According to the State Demographic Center, Minnesota's Hispanic population will grow by 47 percent from 2005 to 2015. Extension-taught ServSafeŽ courses proved successful for English language speakers, but up until early last year, a Spanish version of the course had low passing rates in Minnesota.

Something needed to change. Extension food safety educators worked with Courtesy Corporation – McDonald's and Olmsted County Public Health to revamp the course for this growing audience.

Even before exam results from the Rochester pilot rolled in, it was clear the revised course was an improvement. What made the difference?

Key to the course success were shorter training sessions, which meshed better with restaurant workers' schedules, and on-the-job assignments, which presented opportunities for managers and employees to learn together, according to Glenyce Peterson-Vangsness, Extension food safety educator. In addition, instructor Claudia Diez, a Mexico native, used life experience and unique perspective to address cultural barriers.

"I know my people are hardworking people," said Diez. "They are people with high energy, who want to play by the rules, and who have a wealth of knowledge. I emphasize behavioral change and not just passing the exam and getting a certificate."

The new workshop was beneficial for managers and staff alike, according to Jessica Alexander, general manager of a McDonald's restaurant in Byron. "The managers have been able to explain why we do things the way we do, which has helped the employees to remember the proper procedures of food safety," Alexander added.

Word of the newly improved course has spread—much to the delight of Extension's Food Safety Team, which has received requests from food industry workers all over the state.

For more information, visit the Food Safety site.

Big course changes translate into higher scores

Claudia Diez and props

Instructor Claudia Diez uses colorful props to represent bacteria while explaining food safety practices.

Before Extension and its partners redesigned the ServSafeŽ Spanish curriculum, only 40 percent of Spanish speakers passed. But since the new course was developed:

  • 90 percent passed a pilot program in Rochester with an average score of 93.19 percent.
  • 100 percent passed a recent metro-area series with an average score of 91.43 percent.
  • 100 percent of participants say they have changed their work habits. Reported changes include more attention to proper hand washing, personal hygiene, cleaner facilities and increased attention to proper cooling of foods.
  • 100 percent of participants say they have shared what they learned with co-workers.

For more information on ServSafeŽ and other food safety courses from Extension—in English or Spanish—visit the Extension food safety site.

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