In the fall of 2015, Clark State Community College—in collaboration with the Global Impact STEM Academy (GISA) and feedback from industry professionals—launched the Food Science and Technology program. The program, now in its second semester, teaches an applied science widely used in the food industry. While food science is a component of food service, it is also uniquely different.
“There is a lot of misunderstanding about food science,” said Dr. Astrid Garzon, Food Science program coordinator and assistant professor at Clark State. “Food science and food service are two very different things.”
Garzon explained that food science is an applied science based on the principles of chemistry, physics, math and microbiology. “Food science is knowing what the components of food products are, how they interact amongst themselves and how chemical and physical properties change with processing and storage,” she said.
Garzon said a food scientist will know why foods react a certain way. “For example, the ripening process of a fruit or vegetable, there are all kinds of chemical and biochemical reactions involved in that process,” said Garzon. “That’s what a food scientist needs to know; the science of why a type of food is behaving the way it is.”
The Food Science and Technology curriculum consists of general education requirements and six core classes, including Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, which, Garzon said, is widely used in the food industry to ensure food safety. “The class is a management system where food safety is addressed through analysis and control of biological, chemical and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product,” she said.
The Food Science and Technology program is housed at the Global Impact STEM Academy (GISA) in Springfield, Ohio, where the students get hands-on experience in a state-of-the-art food science laboratory. “The students experience a wide range of food science activities including product development, shipping and containers as well as quality testing,” said Richard Sykes, assistant dean of Business and Applied Technologies at Clark State.
GISA is a STEM-designated public high school offering programs in the agriculture industry, especially areas of bioscience, food, fiber, energy and the environment.
“Clark State also offers a food science pathway that many of our students are taking advantage of, and it is the first year for that program,” said Joshua Jennings, founding director of GISA. “Students who take this course through Clark State not only receive the college credit, but also receive a high school credit in Applications of Food Science and Safety. The food science profession is broad and has many different exit points, from high school career technical programing to Ph.D. work.”
Jennings said food science is extremely important due to the workforce development demand of qualified applicants to fill high-demand, high-wage jobs throughout the state.
Graduates of the Clark State Food Science and Technology program receive an Associate of Applied Science degree and have a transfer pathway option to The Ohio State University to continue their food science education and earn a bachelor’s degree.
The employment rate of agricultural and food science technicians is projected to continue growing; more technology and scientific knowledge related to food production will allow greater control of the production and processing; continued population growth will drive the need to increase efficiency of production and processing methods; and more awareness and enforcement of food safety regulations will increase inspection requirements.
Garzon said as a food scientist she considers it most important that people understand food science is not cooking, culinary, nutrition or food service. “Food science is related to those fields,” she said. “But if you don’t know how a water molecule behaves, then you can’t understand why having a lot of water in a food product can cause spoilage. A food with a lot of water has a short shelf life, but a food scientist needs to know why.”