Written by Lavonne Meyer (former SDSU Extension Food Safety Field Specialist).
If you have children or belong to any organizations at all, eventually you will be asked to work in a concession stand. After a while, you will be even be given the opportunity to be in charge of the concession stand. Concession stands, or food stands, are a part of our culture as they are a feature of many community celebrations and athletic events. The stands provide a way for the organization to earn funds, while also providing the service of food at the event.
Concession stands can be breeding grounds for bacteria, and some bacteria can make you sick. When you are working in the stand, do your part to keep the food safe. Stand up for food safety practices while you are working in the stand. This will increase the income you are able to generate, but only if no one gets sick.
Consider a take-along concession kit when it is your turn to work in the stand. Essentials to the kit include:
- Dishwashing soap: many times the bottle is missing or empty and you will need this to clean utensils, equipment, and counters.
- Hand washing soap: hand washing cannot be emphasized enough with all the volunteers who help in the food stand.
- Paper towels: dishtowels, sponges, and dish cloths that have been left in the stand can harbor and spread bacteria. If you do not have clean cloth ones available, you will be happy to have the paper towels for drying hands and equipment.
- Homemade sanitizing solution: This is so easy to do, but has huge results on the success of your food stand. Use a tablespoon of chlorine bleach per gallon of water in a spray bottle to sanitize countertops and equipment. Remember, soap and water cleans the things you can see. Sanitizing solution cleans the things you cannot see. Sanitizing reduces the levels of bacteria that may be left behind after cleaning.
- Food thermometers: If you are preparing meat, ground beef must reach an internal temperature of at least 160°. Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Keep foods out of the temperature danger zone between 40° and 140°. If foods sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, discard them.
Before beginning work in the food stand, have an organizational meeting with the other volunteers. Besides figuring out your work plan, this would be a good time to go over food safety principles so everyone understands the expectations. All volunteers should understand what they are to do and why it is important to follow the guidelines. This is a good time to discuss appropriate dress for working in the food stand.
Menu items should be “food stand friendly”. Keep in mind the equipment that will be available and the work staff you will have. Only choose foods that you can guarantee you can store and serve safely.
Organize work tasks to reduce cross-contamination risks. Separate those working with raw foods and those working with ready-to-eat foods. Also separate those who are serving food from those who are handling soiled dishware and garbage. Designate the task of handling money to one person.
Have a plan for leftover foods with cooling methods and storage containers.
Refer to the following resources for more information on successful concession stands.
- Temporary Hand Washing Stations
- Sanitizing with Bleach
- Serving Safe Barbeques for a Crowd
- Cooking for Groups