There’s still a little over a month left in summer before kids return to schoolwork and the weather begins to cool down. While this summer has probably looked different than what you may be accustomed to, a family picnic is a great summer activity that can be enjoyed while keeping in mind physical distancing practices.
While we have all been focused on preventing the spread of COVID-19 this year, foodborne illness is still something to keep in mind as you plan a picnic outing.
- Wash your hands. Improper hand hygiene is responsible for the spread of many diseases including almost half of foodborne illness. To wash your hands correctly, you should vigorously rub your hands together with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Re-wash hands after handing raw meat and before eating your food. If you are at a park with limited access to running water, don’t forget to pack hand sanitizer.
- Avoid cross-contamination. Juices from raw meat and poultry can contain bacteria and cause foodborne illness. It’s important to pack your food in clean, tightly sealed, individual containers. You should also sanitize your cooler before and after each use to kill any bacteria that may have grown while it was being stored. Wash all produce before eating and avoid cross-contamination with plates and utensils. Cross-contamination can even happen with ice. If you want ice for use in beverages, you should keep that in a separate, sealed bag. The ice used to keep food cold could have bacteria from leaking food without you even knowing so it’s best to have separate bags of ice designated for each purpose.
- Maintain Proper Food Temperatures. The temperature of food is critically important in preventing bacteria growth so have a thermometer handy. Meats need to be cooked to specific temperatures to kill any bacteria. Perishable food should be kept out of the “danger zone”: a temperature range between 40°F and 140° Use a well-insulated cooler and ice or ice packs to transport food and transport it in the air-conditioned backseat rather than the trunk. Do not leave food out for more than two hours or one hour if the temperature is over 90°F.
Healthy Picnic Foods
There are lots of great produce in season that are grown locally. Keep these healthy foods in mind for your next picnic
- Besides being very refreshing on a hot’s summer day, it also is a fruit that can provide you some added hydration as it is 92% water and packed with vitamins and minerals.
- Leafy Greens. Leafy greens, such as swiss chard, contain abundant amounts of phytonutrients providing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Corn on the Cob. A summer staple in Ohio, corn on the cob contains two antioxidants that can be beneficial for eye health—lutein and zeaxanthin and is a good source of vitamins and minerals.
- The tomato provides lycopene which may help protect you from sunburns. In addition, it contains several important micronutrients including vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, B6, folate, niacin, and vitamin E.
While participating in any activities this summer, it’s still important to be mindful of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Luckily for us, there are lots of great parks in the area that allow for picnicking while observing physical distancing guidelines. Here are the things to keep in mind:
- Only go with your immediate family. The safest picnic will be one where you are only gathering with others who live in your household. Including others outside your family increases the risk of spreading COVID-19.
- Maintain six feet of distance. If you are taking your picnic to a public park, be mindful of the distance between you and others outside of your household.
- Bring a mask. While you likely won’t need it for your outdoor picnic, keep in mind that face coverings are now required statewide in Ohio and are effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19. You should be wearing a mask or other face covering any time you are indoors or outdoors when you’re unable to maintain six feet of distance.
Darrin Torrey is an executive chef in the Fisher-Titus Nutrition Services Department. He has been in the culinary arts field since 1995.