Handwashing remains one of the most important steps people can take to reduce the spread of human pathogens and viruses such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus that leads to COVID-19. In response to the current pandemic and with support of this grant funding, the UVM Extension Postharvest Team initiated a project to distribute handwashing stations to farm and food businesses in Vermont.
A total of 36 handwashing stations were provided to 31 farm and food businesses as a result of this project with an average cost of $170 per station. Some of these stations were kits based on earlier designs developed by the team specifically for use in remote locations that lack water or for attachment to harvest vehicles. Some were simply off-the-shelf sinks purchased and installed for a quick solution to a need. Still others were commercially available handwashing stations generally used for camping. An additional 5 farm or food businesses received educational support to complete a handwashing station using their own funds.
The options discussed included:
· A freestanding type framed configuration that uses two 5 gal plastic totes for supply and dirty water. http://go.uvm.edu/framedhandwash
· A wheeled wire rack configuration that also uses the plastic totes for getting water to and from the station, but requires less assembly finesse.http://go.uvm.edu/wirerackhandwash
· A wall mounted configuration that works well on a harvest wagon or in the corner of the farm store, for example. http://go.uvm.edu/wagonhandwash
· An insulated water container option that supports the use of warm water in cold conditions. http://go.uvm.edu/coldhandwash
· Commercially available handwashing stations which require minimal assembly.
· A wall mounted stainless handwash sink if you have a permanent location with water/drainage where you’d like to install it.
The project was promoted using existing email lists and social media starting on November 13, 2020. Each respondent was contacted to understand their needs and to discuss several options that could work for them. Based on these discussions a specific order was created for each participant. Ordering of all the parts, organizing them into kits, and delivery was all handled by Andy Chamberlin who covered 838 miles over three days of contact-less delivery to ensure everyone received what they needed safely and quickly.
Participant feedback about this work was remarkable. There were some who had downloaded the build plans and had every intention of building it, but were having trouble finding one part. The project was the motivation they needed to reach out and get that part and complete the work. In other cases, participants were just really grateful to know that plans existed and were happy with guidance that those plans provided to complete a handwashing station they’ve needed for a long time. In other cases a participant was grateful for the financial support that really unlocked an opportunity to land a handwashing station at their farm or farmer’s market. Almost all of the participants expressed anxiety of the need for handwashing and not knowing how to approach the problem. Farmers markets in particular were struggling to find portable, four-season solutions that would help their customers feel safe at market. One participant noted the importance of this project in allowing them to confidently and safely remain open for youth equestrian programs at a time when local schools were unable to provide after-school activities.
It is clear that the funding for the materials, when married with the base-funded effort of the team resulted in 41 handwashing stations that would otherwise not have existed. This will result in more people washing their hands more regularly and help to control the spread of illnesses such as COVID-19. The existence of these stations also will support farm and food business remaining open, when allowed, with confidence that their customers have access to handwashing facilities.
Map of handwashing station delivery sites (available at https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit?mid=1DWRBbVkOl1oEB5jwvam1Y0ynEvUNysyF&usp=sharing)