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Seen and Heard: The USDA Food Safety Discovery Zone is a Big Hit at the B’More Healthy Expo

The USDA Food Safety Discovery Zone began its spring 2012 tour this past Saturday at Baltimore’s B’More Healthy Expo. Staffed by five food safety experts, the Discovery Zone was arguably one of the top attractions at the expo, giving interactive tours and food safety prizes to at least 5,000 visitors in one day. FSIS’ Bridgette Keefe-Hodgson, who communicates through American Sign Language, captured the attention of deaf and hearing visitors alike with her presentations.

Bridgette estimates that about 15 deaf expo attendees stopped by the Discovery Zone, and each stuck around for quite some time to see what they could learn. They were thrilled that FSIS has a series of YouTube videos in ASL, called SignFSIS, on preventing food poisoning, and Bridgette wrote down the URL for her pet project so the videos could be found later. One happy customer told her, “Wow, it is truly fantastic to see a deaf employee working at the FSIS booth.  For me, that makes it so much easier to ask food safety questions directly in ASL.”

Bridgette, speaking through an interpreter, was able to help hearing visitors as well. One woman had never thought it was safe to keep chicken in the freezer for longer than a week. When Bridgette gave her a copy of FSIS’ Kitchen Companion and pointed her to the storage chart on page 11, the woman could not believe she had been throwing away good chicken that was safe to cook. She learned that a whole, frozen chicken will last in the freezer for up to a year. The woman told the Discovery Zone staff, “I’m so glad I visited you!”

Bridgette said her favorite moment of the day was when a little boy could not wait for his mother to take a tour of the Discovery Zone. “Mom, that came to my school! We’ve gotta go in. I want to show you what it looks like inside! It’s so cool,” he said, pulling her towards the exhibit.

The stop at the B’More Healthy Expo in Baltimore was a successful first stop for this year’s tour. To learn more about the Food Safety Discovery Zone and to see when it might be coming to a location near you, visit the Food Safety Discovery Zone website.

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