Texas Tech University

USDA Discovery Zone Teaches Kids About Importance of Food Safety

George Watson; Video by Jeff Ramazani and Lacey Nobles

May 3, 2016

USDA Discovery Zone

(VIDEO) The interactive food safety truck visited Texas Tech on Tuesday.

Discovery Zone

Clean, separate, cook, chill – the four key stages to practicing the safe handling of food.

That was the message heard by groups of elementary school children on Tuesday (May 3) as the toured the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety Discovery Zone, a 40-foot mobile interactive learning kitchen that teaches food safety and the prevention of foodborne illnesses.

The Discovery Zone made a stop at the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at Texas Tech University where students learned about washing their hands before and after handling raw foods, separating raw foods to prevent cross-contamination, proper cooking temperatures and how to adequately store food to prevent the growth of bacteria.


“I think this is a fantastic opportunity for Texas Tech,” said Kendra Nightingale, an associate professor and food safety expert in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. “It's a huge thing for the government to come to Lubbock, Texas, to really tell us how important they think we are in terms of our program here in food safety, and food safety is important to everyone from the farmer to the parent. It's a great opportunity to have the ability to expose children to food safety and let them know everyone plays a role in the process.”

Discovery Zone

According to the USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated one in six Americans, or a total of 48 million, get sick from foodborne illnesses each year. The Food Safety Discovery Zone, which travels to fairs and small schools as well as events with about 200,000 people, teaches visitors of all ages how to prevent foodborne illnesses through the four stages:

  • Clean: wash hands and surfaces often.
  • Separate: Keep raw meat and poultry apart from ready-to-eat foods.
  • Cook: Always use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Chill: Refrigerate or freeze food promptly.
Discovery Zone

“We're here to help everybody know the simple ways to stay safe at home,” said Adam Ghering, a member of the USDA food safety education staff. “Inside it's geared more toward children and each state has an interactive stop to it, and the kids just love it. The kids have wide eyes, for sure, when they see the lighting and the wheels, and they're learning super things like washing their hands and handling food. The smiles afterwards and the high-fives we get really tell the reaction.”

In addition to the Food Safety Discovery Zone, the USDA promotes food safety and prevention of foodborne illnesses in other ways.

The Foodkeeper app, available from both the Apple Store and Google Play, give users information on storage times for hundreds of different foods. The USDA also has a toll-free USDA Food Safety Hotline (1-800-535-4555) that is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays for those with questions about food safety, as well as the website www.FoodSafety.gov where questions can be asked and are answered 24 hours a day, seven days per week.

For more information on the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, go to its website.