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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- The Early Responders Distance Learning Center (ERDLC) at Saint Joseph's University here and its Center for Food Marketing (CFM) -- operating through the Pennsylvania Institute for Food Marketing Education and Research (PIFMER) -- are developing a national education and training model that addresses protection, defense, and response issues for the nation's food system.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is formally endorsing the program as an official co-sponsor, and Delaware Valley College is partnering with SJU.
While this particular model is being developed for initial use in Pennsylvania, it could be implemented state-by-state or nationally.
"Pennsylvania takes food safety very seriously," said Dennis Wolff, Pennsylvania's secretary of agriculture. "This training will help maintain our state's safe, abundant food supply, and will also protect our economy. Agriculture is our number one industry, so ensuring consumer health and confidence is a top priority."
Consisting of three phases, the model will address training for the entire agriculture and food community, united with personnel from emergency management and government agencies. On July 11 and 12, Saint Joseph's will host phase two of the training program entitled "Protect and Defend the Nation's Food Supply," on campus in Mandeville Hall.
The program will involve large-scale tabletop exercises and presentations. Any organization or individual concerned about or accountable for the protection, defense, and response related to potential threats against food products is invited to attend. The program is free, although pre-registration is required at http://pifmer.org/about/pifmernews-detail.php?id=26.
The first phase of the model took place between May and the end of June, and required participants to complete eight Web-based courses. The last phase will involve a comprehensive field exercise set at Delaware Valley College's working-farm complex on August 9. The addition of a farm-related exercise will give all the participants a unique and better understanding of the dynamics of what can happen when the agricultural base of the supply chain is the target of a terrorist attack.
The ERDLC creates and administers distance-learning courses for the emergency response community on preparing for weapons of mass destruction/terrorist incidents with a specialized focus on psychological consequences and food protection and security. Its mission is to use its diverse talents to create state-of-the-art distance learning to aid and strengthen the nation's emergency responders.