Michelle Paillou, Environmental Supervisor/Training Coordinator for the St. Louis (MO) County Health Department, is a community education specialist. Her food safety outreach ranges from operators who need a refresher at the “food school” she created, to school age kids and adults.
For grade schoolers to high school students, her presentation revolves around the familiar St. Louis Cardinals and all the food safety steps that have to be taken by the stadium food vendors before it opens. Michelle says, “Since most of the kids know about baseball, it’s a great way to tie in public health.”
For the youngest students, Michelle talks to the kids about how to wash your hands and why it’s important. In her class, she uses three pieces of bread and asks the kids to touch one of them with unwashed hands, touch another one with washed hands, and one slice is untouched.
She next shows them the “time-lapsed” results, using “pre-treated” bread slices: the slice that was not handled and the one handled with clean hands remain uncontaminated and OK to eat. While the slice handled with dirty hands is covered with bacterial growth and looks, as the kids say, “disgusting”.
Michelle has found that this is a great visual and really makes an impact. She sometime receives notes from students after the class, thanking her for teaching them about handwashing. Michelle tells us that she leaves them, “Singing the Happy Birthday song and washing their hands!”