- Associated Press - Monday, May 26, 2014

Lansing State Journal. May 19.

Balance safety with booster efforts

Area athletic booster groups are scrambling this spring to cope with Ingham County’s beefed up enforcement of health rules at their game-side concessions stands.

There’s a fine line to be walked here. Curtailing concessions likely means reducing revenue that boosters raise to help defray costs of equipment, uniforms and, in some cases, pay-to-participate fees for needy students. Yet, how could anyone support looking the other way if food isn’t being handled and prepared safely?

Ingham County officials acknowledged in a recent LSJ report that they had been lenient in enforcing safe food handling requirements at school athletic concessions.

Yet while improving enforcement, they observed such unsafe practices as not tracking the freshness date on raw ground beef. They found well-meaning boosters were cooking food such as chili at home and bringing it to athletic venues for sale. They found food being prepared in locations with no hand-washing equipment, even though portable sinks exist for just such circumstances.

Cracking down on volunteers who are trying to support student activities may seem harsh, but basic food safety measures such as hand-washing rules and keeping both raw and cooked foods at safe temperatures simply must be followed. For the sake of public health, these things can’t be optional.

Booster groups are volunteer efforts, but don’t face more demanding responsibilities. County officials began requiring licensing on May 1. Those who aren’t licensed can use pre-packaged items. That’s reasonable.

Booster concessions are an effective source of revenue. In some districts, $20,000 or more worth of food and drinks are sold each year. Where extra equipment is needed, perhaps civic minded business owners might step in to sponsor a purchase or boosters might consider a one-time fundraising activity to raise the money they need.

Meanwhile the Legislature may consider changing state law to exempt such groups from some licensing requirements if they offer a limited menu of low-risk items and have been reviewed by a local health department.

Following safety procedures shouldn’t be the death knell for booster groups. At the same time, worries about how these groups will meet standards shouldn’t cause the county to return to lenient enforcement. Good intentions and safety must co-exist.

_____

The Mining Journal (Marquette). May 21.

Soo Film Festival a positive growth step for area

A little bit of Hollywood is coming to the Upper Peninsula this summer by way of the Soo Film Festival.

Story Continues →