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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI awarded $590,000 grant to help special needs teachers teach food safety lessons

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

KINGSTON, R.I. -- September 29, 2005 -- The University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension Food Safety Education Program has been awarded a $590,000 grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop educational materials designed to help high school special needs teachers teach their students how to prepare, serve and store food safely.

“Special needs youth at the high school level are required to have life skills instruction to promote independence,” said Lori Pivarnik, a URI food safety educator in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences who will work with colleague Martha Patnoad on the project. “Up until now their curriculum has included living skills and job preparation skills, but there has been little or no focus on food safety.”

Over the next three years, Pivarnik and Patnoad will: 1) conduct a needs assessment to determine what teachers in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut know about food safety and what teaching materials they currently use; 2) seek input from teachers on what materials they would like to see developed; and 3) create, test and evaluate hands-on curriculum materials and resources.

Once the teaching materials have been created, they will be incorporated into the special needs teacher education curricula at Rhode Island College, the University of Connecticut and the University of Massachusetts. Also collaborating on the project are Kid’s First and the Office of Special Needs at the R.I. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“Providing food safety education to this often under-served population is critical to improving the quality of an independent life for individuals with disabilities and to enhance work placement opportunities,” said Patnoad.

The grant is one of 21 food safety awards totaling $12 million announced by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns last week. It is the third major food safety grant awarded to Pivarnik and Patnoad in the last four years totaling more than $1.2 million.