By Billy Mitchell, NFU Food Safety Training Coordinator

“Representation matters.”

“Meaningful collaboration.”

These simple yet powerful sentiments were shared by Armitra Jackson-Davis (Alabama A&M University) and Kranti Yemmireddy (University of Texas Rio Grande Valley) during the International Association for Food Protection’s conference session, “If You Want to Go Fast, Go Alone; But If You Want to Go Far, Go Together: Collaborating with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Non-Governmental Organizations, and Community-Based Organizations on Produce Safety Education and Training.” The panelists, with facilitation from Kristin Woods (Auburn University), spoke about their experiences working with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), the relationships they’ve fostered, and the need for continued work among organizations that provide education and technical assistance to growers and processors.

I had the pleasure of joining Jackson-Davis and Yemmireddy on stage, where one of the constant themes was the importance of collaboration. One organization can’t do it all; by working together we not only increase the quantity of people we can reach, but also the quality of this important work. This is key to the Local Food Safety Collaborative (LFSC), a cooperative agreement between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Farmers Union Foundation (NFUF), as well as United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Food Safety Outreach Competitive Grant Program (FSOP) projects, whose accomplishments and lessons learned were highlighted as ways to foster collaboration.

LFSC has found success in connecting extension, departments of agriculture, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and community-based organizations (CBOs) to one another to reach new, unique, and underserved audiences. For example, Tilth Alliance and Washington State Department of Agriculture work together to provide food safety education and training in the Western region, while The United Community Christian Association (TUCCA) and Alabama Cooperative Extension System team up in the Southeast to serve beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers. FSOP projects have also found real success, with The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition reporting that they “have made real, positive impacts in the lives of beginning, small-scale, and organic farmers looking for support in meeting FDA’s new expansive food safety regulations.”

“Food safety is everyone’s responsibility—let us work together,” concluded Yemmireddy. As Jackson-Davis highlighted, “we are all better people when we get to interact.” By working with HBCUs, HSIs, NGOs, and CBOs, both educators have put in the time and effort to support the producers in their region, not only building trust but also stronger agricultural communities through their work. For more information on current and past LFSC projects, please visit the Local Food Safety Collaborative website. Also check out the Food Safety Resource Clearinghouse for a curated source of food safety guides, factsheets, templates, and more. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on the latest food safety news.

This project website is supported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award 1U01FD006921-01 totaling $1,000,000 with 100 percent funded by FDA/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by FDA/HHS, or the U.S. Government.

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