Summer is finally here! Even though we still are getting plenty of rain, we have opportunities for family activities and outdoor fun.

Along with these activities, we also need to be aware of safety.

It doesn’t mean we can’t have fun this summer! I especially enjoy playing outside with grandbabies. (Yes, that now has become one of my favorite activities!) Perhaps you are going to ball games or just enjoying the day by relaxing in a swing outside in the shade.

We need to stay hydrated, so drink plenty of water and don’t get overheated. Wear lightweight clothing and a hat if going outside in the bright sunshine or better yet, go outside earlier in the mornings or late afternoon and early evening.

We all want to enjoy the summer, and spend time with our friends and family and participate in fun activities. One thing most of us do anytime we participate in any family activity or event is to eat. We have picnics, barbeques, and camping trips.

What’s one thing that can spoil a great day? Food poisoning! According to foodsafety.gov, one in six Americans will get sick from food poisoning this year. But following four simple steps can keep you and your family safe.

Clean: Germs can be in many places, your hands, utensils and cutting boards, and yes even our food. Wash your hands the right way! Use plain soap and water and scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails for at least 20 seconds. Rinse hands, and then dry with a clean towel. Wash your hands often, such as before, during and after preparing food and after handling raw meat poultry, seafood or uncooked eggs. Wash the food prep areas such as cutting boards, dishes and utensils and countertops with hot soapy water. Don’t forget to wash fruits and vegetables as well. Cut away any damaged or bruised areas, then fruits under running water.

Separate: Use separate cutting boards and plates for produce, meat, poultry and eggs, as well as separate plates and utensils for cooked and raw foods. Wash all utensils and plates thoroughly before using them again. As you shop for groceries, or store them in your refrigerator, separate items and store them safely. Don’t place uncooked or raw meats above the fruits and vegetables or store them in the same compartment. Be safe — don’t cross contaminate.

Cook (foods to the correct temperature): Use a food thermometer to be sure your food is safe. And then keep hot foods hot (140 degrees F or above) after cooking. If it isn’t served right after cooking, keep it in a heat source such as slow cooker or warming tray.

Chill (refrigerate and freeze food properly): Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours Keep food out of the “danger zone” of 40 degrees F. and 140 degrees F. Cold foods need to below 40 degrees F and hot foods above 140 degrees F. Check your refrigerator and freezer temperatures; refrigerator should be set at 40 degrees F. or below and your freezer at zero degree F. or below.

This summer, remember that part of eating healthy includes partaking in safe food handling. And on those days you aren’t too busy playing and having fun with friends and family, stop by your local senior center and join us for lunch. We practice good food service handling procedures as well, and WE do the cooking for you.

See you soon at the center!

STEPHANIE DENHAM is the nutrition director for AAAX.