Food science learning in a virtual format

Food science and food-related jobs are a major part of Ohio’s economy. Approximately 70,000 people are employed in the food and agriculture industries here in the state. 36 teachers had a chance to learn more about these opportunities through “Experience Food Science: Field to Package”, a virtual workshop generously sponsored by Ohio Soybean Council (OSC) in partnership with with contributions from CIFT, Center for Innovative Food Technology.

OSC Director of Research and Education Tom Fontana greeted the teachers, “Thank you for what you do every day. I know it’s been challenging over the last few months.” Fontana emphasized OSC’s commitment to education through GrowNextGen, funded by soybean farmers’ checkoff dollars. GrowNextGen provides a wide variety of resources including e-learning courses and professional development workshops, as well as free science curriculum.

CIFT President and CEO Rebecca Singer addressed the connection between farmers and the food industry from field to package, ensuring a strong network moving into the future. “We want to help students explore the potential to enter this workforce. The goal is to have safe, quality food readily available.”

Elizabeth Murawski, CIFT Business and Workforce Development Manager, presented information about the Food Industry credentials available to Ohio students, Food Industry Associate and Food Industry Specialist. She also shared about CIFT’s work to encourage food processors and small businesses through facilities at Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen (NOCK), a non-profit commercial kitchen facility that assists entrepreneurial efforts and current food-related businesses. NOCK provides access to a commercially licensed kitchen, networking opportunities, and technical assistance.

Each workshop participant received a box of supplies that allowed them to follow along with hands-on lab activities from home or wherever they were viewing the workshop. Presenters Rachel Sanders from Global Impact STEM Academy and Jennifer Foudray of Miami Valley Career Tech Center showed teachers how to adapt lessons to online teaching. Labs included an introduction to cleaning vs. sanitizing, making soy milk, testing the protein content of smoothies made with various types of milk, and emulsions. In a break-out session, groups read product labels to determine calories from protein, lipids, and carbs and see how they are calculated.

During lunch, an industry panel talked to teachers about their educational backgrounds and current job responsibilities. Finally, a virtual field trip to the Cargill crush facility in Sidney gave teachers an overview of what happens at the plant with soybeans brought in by local farmers.

This virtual workshop is just one example of GrowNextGen’s commitment to supporting teachers during this challenging time. We’re here to help! Follow us on social media and watch our monthly newsletter for more information and ideas.