From Low-Riding to High-Achieving “Jeremy”— A Food Safety Success Story


BAC Fighter Jean Bridges of Memphis sent us this inspiring story of her employee, “Jeremy.”

In June of Jean Bridges, Executive Director, We Fight BAC, Inc. 2014, her organization started its’ USDA Summer Food Service Program, serving a free nutritious lunch and snack to more than 2,000 kids a day. They needed to hire and train staff on safe food handling and preparation.

Many “Pluses”

Seventeen year old “Jeremy” was working at a fast food establishment when he came to apply for a food service position. During his interview, he successfully answered all of the food safety questions. He was hired on the spot. Jeremy was an ideal employee in many ways: he arrived at the food preparation site on time and ready to work. During his first week, Jean observed him to be good-natured, motivated, hardworking, and willing to help co-workers.

But Too Many Food Safety “Minuses”

But Jean also observed and addressed some downsides to Jeremy’s habits:

She constantly had to remind him to watch out for cross-contamination.  Jeremy was recovering from a cold and wiped his nose with the back of his hand. He would pull up his pants, and have to be reminded to wash his hands and put on new gloves.  He was a cigarette smoker and had to be reminded to wash his hands after a restroom or smoke break. Jean seemed to be constantly asking him to go wash his hands.

Jeremy Had to Go

Jean discussed Jeremy’s work performance regarding food safety with her board of directors. It was a tough decision, since he was a good worker, but his performance did not meet the program’s high food safety standards. Jeremy was terminated.

News traveled fast to Jeremy’s co-workers. They were devastated! To help keep morale high, Jean scheduled a food safety training class the following Saturday for the staff, and Jeremy was invited to attend.  The class reviewed safe food handling best practices and the potential results of poor food handling, especially since the  underserved kids in their program were especially at risk for food borne illness. The class stressed that it was the personal responsibility of each worker to ensure food safety and made it clear that staff must not only learn but put into practice what they learn!

Jean summed up the lesson: Poor food safety practices could result in the death of a hungry child, grateful for a meal!

Jeremy Rides Again!

This time, the teaching “sunk in” for Jeremy.  With tears in his eyes he apologized and pleaded for a second chance. Jeremy was given another chance to contribute his efforts to the successful and food safe child feeding program.

Where’s My Boy?

Near the end of the summer program, Jean met Jeremy’s mother. She yelled from across the street “Ms. Jean I need to talk to you!” She was clearly excited. She asked, “What did you do to my boy?” She told Jean that since working with food program Jeremy had become more conscientious when cleaning, handling food, and cooking. He was even careful to put raw meat and lettuce on separate shelves in the refrigerator to prevent cross-contamination.  “He now cleans up after cooking.  I even caught him peeking around the corner to see if I washed my hands before getting a beverage out the refrigerator,” she said. “He’s going overboard. What did you do, where’s my boy?”

Now Jeremy’s the Teacher

Markova Reed of CBS Channel 3 Memphis and host of the show “Bright Spot”, heard about the success of the program.  She contacted Jean for an interview. Ms. Reed was particularly interested in the program’s emphasis on food safety. The cameraman asked how they managed to keep all eight sites clean, and  a worker responded “we try and prevent foodborne illnesses.” Then Jeremy chimed in:  “We told the kids to say please and thank you and they had to use the hand sanitizer placed on the table, and discard empty bags in the trash after they finished their lunch.”

Food Safety Success

Jean sums up her experience, “This has led to my becoming an avid BAC Fighter, modifying our focus and organization name to “We Fight BAC, Inc.”  That’s my success story!”

Jean Bridges, MPA, MBA, MPM
Executive Director, We Fight BAC, Inc.
P.O. Box 750784, Memphis, TN 38175