One of the most beloved spaces at WisCon is the Con Suite — which makes our Con Suite ServSafe volunteers some of the most important hidden heroes of the convention.
What makes for a Con Suite ServSafe volunteer? In addition to a commitment to volunteering in the Con Suite for a few hours, you must also have a current ServSafe food safety certificate. In order for the Con Suite to serve any food, we’re required by our contract with the Concourse Hotel to ensure that all food preparation is overseen by someone with the ServSafe certification.
What do ServSafe volunteers do? During your shift, you will essentially be the volunteer who supervises all food-handling. Anyone volunteering in the Con Suite can help prepare food, but ONLY if there’s a ServSafe volunteer who’s overseeing all of the food prep. You, as that ServSafe volunteer, will keep an eye out that all our food is being prepared safely according to the ServSafe guidelines. Are all food-handlers washing their hands and wearing gloves? Is food being stored safely? Are hot foods are the correct temperature? And so on.
Why is it so necessary to have ServSafe-certified supervisors? Well, in a nutshell — we really, really don’t want anyone to get sick. Those of us who are regular attendees of conventions may be familiar with concrud, but there’s a post-con cold and then there’s norovirus. WisCon’s Con Suite, in all its years, has never been the source of a food poisoning outbreak, but during WisCon 32 in 2008 we were caught by an epidemic of norovirus that hit Madison. Our Con Suite wasn’t the source and WisCon wasn’t the only group hit by it — many people who ate at downtown restaurants were also affected as well as lots of people involved in Madison’s Memorial Day marathon. But because WisCon was the largest single group impacted, the particular strain of norovirus that hit Madison that year has been officially designated “AY502008 (Wiscon).” Longtime WisCon attendees still refer to this as “Wischolera,” and after that year the Concourse Hotel began requiring that our Con Suite staff be ServSafe certified.
What is ServSafe certification and how do you get it? The ServSafe certification course is entirely online — you’ll need an internet connection and time enough to complete the course and receive your certificate. The course takes from an hour to two-and-a-half hours (depending on your personal pace) to complete, but you can stop at any time and return to the course later. The course is broken into sections and you’re quizzed along the way so that you’re pretty well prepared for the final test at the end. There is a cost for taking the course, but WisCon will pay for it.
Do you already have a current ServSafe certification in Wisconsin?? OMG, please come join us! All we’ll need is a copy of your current certificate.
Are there any side effects associated with becoming ServSafe certified? Well, it’s true that our ServSafe-certified Con Suite volunteers report a complete inability to eat any free food that appears at their day jobs, because who knows how long it’s been sitting out? So if you have any food anxieties, this is probably not the volunteer task for you (but please do consider some of WisCon’s other at-con volunteer jobs!).
But if you do take up the ServSafe certification mantle, you will become a true hero of the Con Suite and can bask in the satisfaction that YOU helped feed WisCon 40!
For all the details you’ll need on taking the course, getting reimbursed, and choosing a shift, email firstname.lastname@example.org!