Fresh Choice Kitchens

Kitchen Safety & Hygiene

Food Safety

Food safety is an important part of any community kitchen, so community kitchen facilitators must ensure participants diligently carry out safe practices at all times.

  • Speak about food safety at the beginning and throughout your time together in the kitchen since people's level of understanding of food safety varies. (Be careful not to assume that everyone holds similar knowledge.)
  • Incorporate safe food-handling practices in various ways–verbally, through kitchen signage and by providing simple handouts.

Basic Food-Safety Guidelines

Read and discuss the following basic food-safety guidelines before your group begins to cook together. Remember to share these guidelines with new members.

Personal Hygiene

  • Wash your hands properly.
    • Wash them when you first get to the kitchen.
    • Wash them when you switch working from raw meats to vegetables or fruits.
    • Wash them anytime your hands become self contaminated. For example after sneezing and coughing into your hand or after using the washroom.
  • Always tie long hair back or wear a hat or hairnet while cooking.
  • Don't handle food with open sores or cuts on your hand. Thin plastic gloves or finger cots are the best solution in this case.
  • lf you are sick (cold, vomiting or have diarrhea) do not attend the community kitchen. If you must come, do not cook. You may contaminate the food you are cooking.

Your Clothing

  • Pull up your sleeves to prevent your clothing from contaminating the food.
  • Wear a clean apron.

The Food

  • lf a can is leaking, rusted, badly dented, or bulging, do not open it. Throw it away. The contents may make you sick.
  • After use, immediately wash any board and knife used for raw meat. Wash your hands, too.
  • Cool food as quickly as possible before putting it into containers to take home. This can be done by putting it into shallow containers, and stirring regularly. Placing the pot or pan into an ice bath also works well.
  • Foods should be refrigerated or frozen as soon as possible. Bacteria will grow if food is left out at room temperature.
  • It is recommended that cooked meals be kept up to 3 days in the refrigerator and up to 3 months in the freezer.
  • When reheating meals at home, be sure to get the food up to the proper temperature - the food should be steaming hot.
  • Thaw frozen foods in the fridge, microwave oven or cold running water. Not on the kitchen counter!
  • Follow the old saying "If in doubt, throw it out." If you are concerned that food might be spoiled or unsafe to eat, don't take chances. Throw it out!


  • In kitchens where there is no dishwasher available, proper technique will keep your dishes clean and keep you from getting sick! Follow these simple steps for hand-washing dishes:
    • Step 1: Scrape the dishes
    • Step 2: Wash the dishes - water temperature should be at least 44°C (110°F)
    • Step 3: Rinse the dishes
    • Step 4: Sanitize the dishes - add one capful of chlorine bleach to 24°C (75°F) water and let the dishes soak for 45 seconds
    • Step 5: Air dry the dishes
  • For detailed information about each step, read Dishwashing in a Community Kitchen [PDF].

For more information on food safety

  • Caring for Food Safety Interactive Video: Actively participate in this online-learning resource from the BC Ministry of Health. Available in English, Chinese and Punjabi.
  • Be Food Safe Canada: Obtain brochures, food safety facts and a video from the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education.


  • It is recommended that at least two people in your community kitchen group take the BC Certified course "FOODSAFE Level One". This way, if one of the certified people cannot attend the community kitchen, there is still another certified FOODSAFE person in the group.
  • We offer FOODSAFE Level One workshops, twice a year in Vancouver on a sliding scale.
  • The FOODSAFE website provides course details and locations, information on certified instructors, and information on course materials in other languages. 

For Further Assistance with Food Safety

Contact your Health Authority’s Environmental Health Department (BC Residents)
Food Safety is handled by the Environmental Health Officer (EHO) who works for the Environmental Health Department of your Health Authority. If you have any questions or concerns about your food safety, contact your EHO:

Contact Dietitian Services at Health Link BC Also available by calling 8-1-1.

Fire Safety

  • Ensure that your kitchen has a fire extinguisher that is checked annually by the fire department or a fire inspection company.
  • Be sure that you know how to use the fire extinguisher!
  • Ensure that you and all of the participants are aware of the building’s fire procedure.
  • Contact your local fire department to see if they offer fire extinguisher courses in your area.  Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services offers a Fire Safety and Extinguisher Use Training Course for groups, organizations, and individuals.  Burnaby's Fire Prevention Division also offers Fire Extinguisher Training.

First Aid

  • Ensure you have a first-aid kit in your kitchen.
  • Make sure someone in your group is certified in Basic First Aid.
  • Purchase a first-aid kit or make your own. See our list of basic First Aid Kit Contents [PDF | DOC].
  • Visit the St. John Ambulance website to find a variety of first-aid courses or to purchase first-aid kits.
  • Check to see if your local community centre offers First-Aid courses.