Jeremy Benedict ’07 rattles off a list of food service jobs he had in his younger days.
He was a dishwasher at a mom-and-pop diner at 14. By 17, he was working in four-star restaurants. Benedict also had stints in fast food and as a bar manager.
Yet one thing was missing from each and every one of those jobs. Benedict never received any food safety training.
Benedict, who has served as quality improvement and training coordinator for Auxiliary Services Corporation of SUNY Cortland for five years, makes sure food service employees on campus are well-versed in food safety. Each semester, Benedict trains up to 200 student employees of SUNY Cortland’s dining facilities. He also works to keep ASC’s full- and part-time employees up-to-date on the latest food safety techniques.
On May 10, the Sani Professional Food Safety Advisory Council will present him with the Exceptional Food Safety Education And/Or Training Program Implementation award at the 2017 Food Safety Summit in Rosemont, Ill.
Benedict will be part of a Q&A session featuring the national award winners as the summit continues on May 11.
“I’ve developed the food safety program into a fast-paced information session so that when we have our students who we’ve hired, they can come in, sit down and get the information,” Benedict said.
|Jeremy Benedict ’07|
“We want to keep the campus safe serving food. That was my mission, to kill two birds with one stone. We wanted to try to keep orientation as brief as possible to help them in their time and to get all that information to them so they are successful and safe out there.”
Part of the challenge for Benedict is training each semester the hundreds of new student workers, many of whom have no experience in food safety. Through innovative methods, including follow-up studies with workers to understand how much of the original training was retained, Benedict has worked to make food safety a priority among ASC’s student and full-time staff.
“Trying to create a culture is so much different than trying to train one individual person on some of the basics and the standards,” Benedict said. “When you’re trying to create a culture, you’re trying to get into people’s minds that this is the new way of thinking. You really have to have management and executives on board and you have to have the line employees on board. That’s one of the biggest challenges and one of the things we’re working toward, creating a food safety culture. With anything worthwhile, it takes time and I’ve seen a big change in the last five years since I got started.”
Benedict earned a degree in social studies education from SUNY Cortland. He had previously worked at Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES for 13 years in special and vocational education, including culinary arts.
ASC staff members are certified in food safety and sanitation through the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe program. The College’s food service employees strive to make sure food is cooked to proper temperatures, prevent cross-contamination and comply with standards set by the Cortland County Department of Health. Visit the ASC website for a list of food safety guidelines.
Benedict is eager to accept his award but he’s also hoping to learn new techniques in food safety training from industry leaders at the Food Safety Summit. Those connections may help him develop even more effective training programs for SUNY Cortland’s ASC staff members.
“Not only am I trying to pass any knowledge along, I want to get more information because the more I can bring back here, the better that makes it,” Benedict said. “If I could even pull back a little information with me, that would be well worth the trip, above and beyond the award.”