UT Gets Homeland Grant for Food Security Center

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UT Campus, Knoxville (WVLT) - The next time you sit down for a meal, you can feel a little safer about the food you're eating.

The University of Tennessee received more than two million dollars from the Department of Homeland Security for an Agriculture and Food Security Preparedness Center.

Communities and food industries across the country will come to UT to learn how to protect themselves from a bioterrorism attack on our food supply.

"Tying the whole food cycle and how to get food to the marketplace and animals, this is a real threat," says US Representative Zach Wamp.

A terrorism threat you may not think about when you sit down for a meal.

"Every person you talk to who is still eating will benefit from this great team effort," says Dr. Michael Blackwell, UT College of Veterinary Medicine Dean.

UT's College of Veterinary Medicine will be the center of the nation-wide agriculture and food supply protection training.

"We'll be going out and working with local communities, industry, to teach them how to assess vulnerabilities in their facilities," says Dr. Sharon Thompson, Training Project Director.

Project Director Doctor Sharon Thompson says this terrorist training is long overdue.

"Not a lot would need to be done to introduce a biological agent into the food supply. Because of the way food moves across the country, it could have a huge impact," says Dr. Thompson.

"They could sneak in here and do anything. We've already seen that," says Peggy Cash.

Many East Tennessee families say they're relieved to hear UT is stepping up to help protect them.

"We need it because without food, without water and things like that, if they get into it, hey, we're hurting, our children are starving," Cash says.

"I just feel a little safer. Anything we can do to help protect our food supply is very much needed," says Melanie Allen.

Knox County's Health Department says our food supply is one of the largest targets for terrorists.

"They've identifies it as being an area that has the potential of being contaminated, but with some help and some work, they should be able to take care of everything," says Ronnie Nease, from the Health Department.

UT says they'll be launching the national training program within the next month.

They say they're taking this project very seriously and look forward to helping communities across the country.

Always great to hear we're helping keep families safer.