An evaluation of the usefulness of British Columbia's guideline in educating food bank operators
Keywords:Food safety, Food distribution organization, Food bank, Food donation, Food donation guideline
Background: Food Distribution Organizations (FDOs), such as food banks, community kitchen, and meal programs, are essential resources to relieve food insecurity in British Columbia. FDOs collect, process, store, and distribute donated food to the needy population. The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) published the Guidelines for Food Distribution Organizations with Grocery or Meal Programs in 2016 with purpose to educate FDOs on food safety and assist with their operational challenges. The guideline plays an important role especially for food bank operators who are not required to take food safety training. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the extent of the guideline use among food bank operators and assess its usefulness. This study also determines if the guideline use had a statistically significant association with higher knowledge in food safety. Methods: Self-administered electronic surveys created on Survey Monkey Canada were distributed to Foodbanks BC members by weekly online newsletter and email. The survey assessed the extent of usage of the guideline, current issues and knowledge level of FDO operators in BC. The survey response was collected over three weeks long period. Results: Among 37 FDO operators participated, 30 completed the survey. The majority of the operators was from BC, worked in food banks and had longer than 5 years long experience. 47% of participants did not know about the guideline. Among the guideline users, 83% agreed or strongly agreed that the guideline was useful. While retailers and groceries were the most common food donors, caterers and restaurants were the least common. Assessing each food item for safety was the most commonly encountered issue for FDOs. The least commonly encountered issue was having another FDO taking our donation from the donor. There was no association between the guideline use and level of food safety knowledge according to the Chi-square test (p= 0.89). There was no association between the years of experience and level of food safety knowledge (p= 0.23). The results did not show a statistically significant result potentially due to small sample size (n= 30). Conclusion: The results indicated while the guideline is useful among the users, the extent of its use should be widened. There is a need to improve accessibility of the guideline by modifying the content to address current practical issues, formatting it in a more user-friendly way, and utilizing better distribution means.
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