Food & Society Program Releases COVID-19 Course for Health Officials

October 7, 2021

New Course Provides Tools for Health Departments to Support and Protect Restaurant Operators

Amy Tolchinsky
CDC Foundation

Atlanta, GA, October 7, 2021 – Today, the Aspen Institute’s Food & Society Program, in partnership with the Public Health Foundation (PHF) and support from the CDC Foundation and The Kresge Foundation, released a free online training course for health department officials to work with their local restaurants to decrease the transmission of airborne viruses such as COVID-19 and influenza. The training can be accessed through the Safety First portal.

The newest Safety First training covers three main challenges faced by restaurants across the nation: source control and masking, restaurant ventilation, and employee vaccination. Each section of the online training comes with resources, infographics and targeted guidelines that restaurant inspectors and health department employees can provide restaurants looking to simplify and optimize COVID-19 safety procedures.

“This training couldn’t come at a better time as restaurants’ staff need guidance and protections as we move into winter and dine indoors—with flu season on top of the Delta variant,” said Corby Kummer, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Food & Society Program. “And we’ve recently been seeing the disturbing increase of physical altercations between patrons and restaurant staff. Who best to counsel challenged restaurant operators? Health departments —are the unsung heroes who can deliver the skills and tools that help everyone work and dine in a safe environment.”

The Safety First: Helping Health Departments Reduce the Spread of COVID-19 training is made up of three high-quality, interactive video modules (Source Control and Infection Prevention Basics, Ventilation Basics and Vaccination Communication Strategies) and takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes to complete with knowledge checks after each module, a post-test, and additional resources. The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) approved this course for one-hour of continuing education. Credential holders may submit one hour of continuing education upon completion of this course by using the self-reporting tool in the MyNEHA Portal. Additionally, everyone who completes the training will receive a certificate from Aspen Food & Society and the Public Health Foundation.

This training program is part of a comprehensive body of work that began with the April 2021 release of national indoor dining safety guidelines, Safety First, in partnership with prominent restaurant industry leaders and organizations. A second, free online training, developed with Rouxbe, Safety First: Protecting Workers and Diners in Restaurants, has been utilized by restaurant managers and workers since August 2021. Two principle infographics, the Diner Code of Conduct and Our Covid Pledge, lead with the importance of helping all staff and diners get vaccinated; they are also available in Spanish and Mandarin.

Aspen Food & Society’s Safety First training series was generously supported by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch, and Food@Google.


Food and Society at the Aspen Institute brings together leaders and decision-makers in the food and beverage industry and the public health community—scientists, nutritionists, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, and food makers of all kinds—to find solutions to production, health, and communications challenges in the food system. It is currently working on a major initiative to broaden the work on the Food Is Medicine movement, creating a Research Priorities Action Plan that will be a road map for future funding that will extend current work to rural and underserved areas. The goal is for people of all income levels to eat better and more healthful diets—and to enjoy them bite by bite. Find executive director Corby Kummer on Twitter @ckummer.

The Public Health Foundation improves public health and population health practice to support healthier communities. Since 1970, PHF has developed effective resources, tools, information, and training for health agencies, organizations, and individuals to help improve performance and community health outcomes. PHF’s TRAIN Learning Network is the trusted leader in providing training and other learning opportunities, now with over 3 million learners. Learn more at

The Kresge Foundation was founded in 1924 to promote human progress. Today, Kresge fulfills that mission by building and strengthening pathways to opportunity for low-income people in America’s cities, seeking to dismantle structural and systemic barriers to equality and justice. Using a full array of grant, loan, and other investment tools, Kresge invests more than $160 million annually to foster economic and social change. For more information visit

The CDC Foundation helps the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) save and improve lives by unleashing the power of collaboration between CDC, philanthropies, corporations, organizations and individuals to protect the health, safety, and security of America and the world. The CDC Foundation is the go-to nonprofit authorized by Congress to mobilize philanthropic partners and private-sector resources to support CDC’s critical health protection mission. Since 1995, the CDC Foundation has raised over $1.6 billion and launched more than 1,200 programs impacting a variety of health threats from chronic disease conditions including cardiovascular disease and cancer, to infectious diseases like rotavirus and HIV, to emergency responses, including COVID-19 and Ebola. The CDC Foundation managed hundreds of CDC-led programs in the United States and in more than 140 countries last year.

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