CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department is offering restaurant managers and owners a new way to learn about food rules and regulations. Food establishment managers can now take a free food safety class at the health department or online at the health department's website. Dr. Rahul Gupta, executive director of the health department, said officials wanted to offer the class as a way of getting managers up to speed on the food code. It's unfair to hold them to a standard that they may not be aware of, Gupta said. The department is offering the optional training free, but that's likely to change. "[The class is] free and probably will be for the next several months but at some point we have to charge a fee for participating because it is costing us something," said Anita Ray, environmental director for the health department. "The need is so great we're going to be doing it for free for a while." The health department had 24 people for its first class Tuesday morning. Eighteen have registered for a class to be offered March 7 and 10 have signed up for a March 19th class. The class covers what the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for preventing food-borne illnesses. The health department might also offer a large training session at the Civic Center, as it has in the past, Ray said. The large class is an abbreviated version of the new class the department is offering, Ray said. Nasandra Wright, sanitarian supervisor for the health department, said she hopes the class will lead to safer restaurants. "[We] hope to be a program of excellence -- in a nutshell," Wright said. The class will be offered from 8 a.m. until noon on the following days: March 7, March 19, April 9, April 25, May 7, May 23, June 4 and June 20. For information or to register, call the health department's environmental health division at 304-348-8050. Reach Lori Kersey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1240.