WASHINGTON — Kansas State University was selected to establish the Center of Excellence for Food Safety Research in Child Nutrition Programs, announced Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The center will provide science-based support to improve the safety of foods provided through the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) nutrition assistance programs, particularly those served in schools and child care settings.

The center will be funded with a two-year, $1.6 million grant and will open as soon as the grant is awarded. It will provide a new and holistic research approach to determine how new initiatives, such as farm-to-school purchasing and school gardens, and emerging science affect food safety in FNS school and child care programs, according to USDA. A multidisciplinary approach, including both basic and applied research, will draw expertise from foodservice management, food safety, food microbiology, agricultural production, education, and the social sciences.

Many of the individuals served in FNS nutrition assistance programs are children, who are vulnerable to foodborne illness. As a result, USDA has put a number of initiatives in place to promote food safety for children.

More than 101,000 public and non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions participate in the National School Lunch Program, serving more than 31 million children daily. Approximately 3.2 million children and 112,000 adults are served daily through the Child and Adult Care Food Program.