You are here
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- While America is increasingly concerned with protecting itself and its citizens from terrorist attacks, Saint Joseph's University's Early Responders Distance Learning Center (ERDLC) here and its Center for Food Marketing (CFM), is developing a national education and training model that addresses protection, defense, and response issues for the nation's food system.
While the particular model is being developed for initial use in Pennsylvania, it could easily and effectively be implemented state-by-state or nationally, according to university officials. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is formally endorsing the program as an official co-sponsor with SJU's Pennsylvania Institute for Food Marketing Education and Research (PIFMER).
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.
"Greater understanding of the nature, role, responsibility, and language of each segment of the food industry is essential in creating a unified front against potential threats to the food supply," said Paul DeVito, Ph.D., executive director of the ERDLC.
The first phase of the model, occurring between May and the end of June 2006, requires participants to complete six Web-based courses, to be created by the ERDLC and CFM, with the help of faculty in the university's Haub School of Business. The second phase will involve a large-scale tabletop exercise, which all participants will be required to attend as participants, observers, or evaluators. The exercise will take place at Saint Joseph's July 11 and 12.
The last phase will involve a comprehensive field exercise set at Delaware Valley College's working farm complex on Aug. 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.
"Departing Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson's comments about the potential vulnerability of our food system to terror attacks should serve as a clarion call to take the necessary steps to guard against this vulnerability," said John Lord, Ph.D., chair and professor of food marketing. "The Saint Joseph's program is an important step in this regard."
"Pennsylvania takes food safety very seriously," Dennis Wolff, Pennsylvania's secretary of agriculture said. "This training will help maintain our state's safe, abundant food supply, and will also protect our economy. Agriculture is our No. 1 industry, so ensuring consumer health and confidence is a top priority."