Food is a great way to bring people together, and selling food is often a key way for nonprofit groups such as 4-H clubs, churches, school groups and community organizations to raise funds for their activities. However, cooking the large quantities of food required for events such as fundraiser dinners, concession stands, community meals, family reunions or funeral meals is different than cooking for your family.

Most of the cooks for these events are volunteers and the events generally do not have any regulatory oversight. Because volunteers for these organizations might not be accustomed to cooking in such large quantities and might not always have the proper equipment, serious food safety problems can occur if proper practices are not followed.

The Ellis County Extension Office will provide two food safety classes for those who handle food at volunteer community events. The first will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 28 at Ellis Public Library in Ellis. A repeat program will be at noon Feb. 16 at the Ellis County Extension Office, 601 Main, Hays. All who attend will receive a checklist for quantity cooking food safety at volunteer events.

Both programs are free, but registration is necessary to ensure adequate training materials. To register for the evening session in Ellis, call the Ellis Recreation Commission at (785) 726-3718. Register for the Feb. 16 noon-hour session in Hays by calling the Ellis County Extension Office, (785) 628-9430.

Unfortunately, numerous cases of foodborne illness have been linked to community volunteer food events. In addition to the great remorse an organizationís members would feel for making someone sick, such an occurrence also can lead to a tarnished reputation or even legal repercussions for the group.

The same food safety procedures that should be used when cooking for a family should be practiced when cooking for large groups. But, in addition, some extra steps also are necessary because of the large volume of food. If your organization serves food for large events, be sure someone from your group plans to attend one of these helpful training sessions.

The program materials were developed by food safety specialists at Kansas State University. Plan to join us to learn the food safety doís and doníts for quantity food events. For more information, contact the Ellis County Extension Office, (785) 628-9430.

Linda K. Beech

is Ellis County

Extension agent for family

and consumer sciences.