Experiencing food science: field to package

Do you like yogurt? Salsa? What if you could make it from scratch and learn about the science involved? This new workshop, sponsored by the Ohio Soybean Council (OSC) in partnership with the Center for Innovation in Food Technology (CIFT) and AgCredit, gave teachers a chance to do some hands-on food science labs and learn more about the new food industry credentials.

Tom Fontana of the Ohio Soybean Council greeted participants. Rebecca Singer, CIFT president and CEO, shared about the importance of food and food-related businesses in Ohio’s economy. Ohio’s food and agribusiness sector contributes $16.4B to the state’s economy annually. Employment in food manufacturing totals about 70,000 with an additional 78,000 employed in farming and ranching.

At Penta Career, CenterGrowNextGen teacher leaders Rachel Sanders and Jennifer Foudray led participants through a lab considering “How does plant milk-based yogurt compare to animal milk-based yogurt?” On the first day, four types of yogurt were made, with home-made and store-bought soy milk and whole milk. On the second day, the Gram staining technique was used to classify the bacteria in the samples, and the types were compared according to pH, color, odor, consistency, and texture/mouth feel. Teachers were able to include strawberries they’d blanched and frozen at the Northwest Ohio Food Cooperative Kitchen (NOCK) the day before.

Everyone became a salsa chef in another lab at NOCK, with small groups developing their own special recipe while working with basic ingredients such as tomatoes, chilies, spices, onions, and black soybeans. Teams came up with their own ‘brand’ and created product names and labels.

In addition to these hands-on activities, participants heard more about the CIFT food industry certification, recognized by the Ohio Department of Education. “The demand for skilled workforce is a growing concern for food companies,” said Singer. “The CIFT student credentials provide a welcome solution to this need, and we look forward to working with academic institutions as well as companies employing the participants in an effort to enhance the industry.”

The credential provides students with verified expertise in the areas of food science through credit hours of work, project experience, food science-related courses, and a web exam. Elizabeth Murawski, CIFT business and workforce development manager, said these credentials will make students stronger candidates when looking for jobs.