USDA Announces Kansas State University will Host New Center of Excellence for Food Safety Research in Child Nutrition Programs

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Thursday announced that the soon-to-be Center of Excellence for Food Safety Research in Child Nutrition Programs will be at Kansas State University.

The new Center, which was proposed in February 2010 after a series of USA Today exposes found major safety gaps in the current system, will provide science-based support to improve the safety of foods provided through a variety of U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) nutrition assistance programs.

“Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our nation’s children and we must do everything we can to ensure that kids are being served safe, high quality meals,” said Vilsack. Federal nutrition programs feed approximately 31 million children daily.

According to USDA, the Center of Excellence will conduct research to help improve initiatives like farm-to-school purchasing, school gardens, and to look at how emerging science affects food safety in FNS school and child care programs through a multidisciplinary approach.

The new initiative will be funded with a two-year, $1.6 million grant.

“We are excited about this new opportunity to support research focused on the unique food safety aspects of our programs,” said Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services in an agency statement.

“Research conducted by the Center will provide important information that we can use to improve programs and to develop education and training opportunities for school nutrition and child care employees,” added Concannon. “Kansas State University has a long history of research and education related to food service management, and will provide excellent leadership for school and child care food safety research.”

Kansas State University’s food safety program is among the nation’s best. The university’s food safety extension has long been considered a preeminent source of information for consumers and industry alike.