By KEVIN WALKER
EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Farmers Market Assoc. (MIFMA) has always seen consumer education as one of its primary missions. Now, with its latest Food Safety Education Fund grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), it is now also about vendor and farmer education as well.
That’s according to Michelle Gagliardi, programs director at MIFMA. A Jan. 3 announcement from MDARD noted MIFMA has been awarded a grant for $45,167 for consumer food safety education outreach.
“They don’t seem to get a lot of proposals about consumer education, but that is right where we find a great deal of importance, to maintain an environment where consumers feel safe and want to keep coming back,” Gagliardi explained.
When asked about the recent nationwide romaine lettuce contamination scare, she said part of the organization’s desire is to make consumers aware of how to respond to food recalls.
“We applied for more funding with the intention of educating the vendor and farmer at the farmers’ market this year, as well as the consumer,” she said. “This year’s grant has been a bit larger than usual.”
Gagliardi explained MIFMA has been getting this grant from MDARD every year since 2015, the first time the organization started applying for this particular grant. She added this is “wonderful, because it enables us to build on the previous year’s efforts.”
Virtually everything associated with food safety and education on MIFMA’s webpages is the result of an MDARD Food Safety and Education Grant.
“As part of the department’s commitment to food safety, we have provided seven grants for food safety education and training,” said Tim Slawinski, director of the food and dairy division of MDARD.
“This grant program puts funds into the hands of those who have direct contact with restaurant and retail grocery store workers who handle food; and with consumers, to assure a well-trained workforce and informed public.”
The Food Safety Education Fund was established under the Michigan Food Law of 2000 and is funded through assessments of $3-$5 from each Michigan food establishment license. The grant program is designed to provide food safety training and education to consumers, and training and education to foodservice establishment employees.
For this round of grants, MDARD received a total of 18 proposals requesting funds totaling $684,025. The department chose seven projects totaling $218,250.
Other recipients for this round included the Great Lakes Conference on Food Protection, $25,000; Michigan Dairy Industry Conference, $5,000; Michigan Environmental Health Assoc., $31,000; Michigan Restaurant Assoc., $46,833; and two additional grants for the Michigan Restaurant Assoc. for two additional projects – one for $37,500 and the other for $27,750.
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