The exciting future of food science

Youth who show an interest in food should consider a professional career track in food science.

The demand for food scientists is expected to grow significantly in the next decade.  According to Michigan State University Extension, this will provide youth many career opportunities in the area of Food Science and Technology. If your child has an interest in food and science now is the time to nurture it.

A fun and delicious food science activity is to make ice cream with snow. In this experiment fill a gallon-size freezer bag half way with snow, add 6 tablespoons of salt and mix together. In a quart-size freezer bag mix 1/2 a cup of half-and-half, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Squeeze out the excess air from the bag and seal it. Place the smaller bag in the bag of snow; remove the excess air from the gallon bag before sealing it. Have your children put on gloves (to keep their hands warm) and gently squish the two bags together until your ice cream is frozen. While eating your yummy treat, talk with your children about the role of the salt in the experiment --- the salt lowers the freezing point of the snow to enable you to freeze the ice cream.

Using marshmallows to learn about density is another food science experiment. Steve Spangler’s Science provides instruction on how to carry out this activity. Due to the marshmallow being full of air bubbles, it will float when dropped into a cup of water. The challenge of this experiment is to determine how to make a marshmallow denser which will cause it to sink.

For more simple and educational experiments with food, check out the Penn State University College of Agricultural Sciences website. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln 4-H also has food facts related to meal planning, nutrition, measurements, science and careers. One activity is titled, Let’s play…FOOD: keep or toss? In this activity the reader is quizzed on various real life scenarios and then provided important information on food safety.       

Consider sharing your science experiments with a group of youngsters. If your children enjoy these science-related activities, start a 4-H food science club for them and their friends. 4-H provides youth with a valuable opportunity to gain skills. For more information about the resources available through Michigan 4-H Youth Development, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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