This year there were 350 students in the entire United States that graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Food Science. It used to baffle me that so few people choose to enter into a field that is not only fun and interesting but is pretty much GUARANTEED job placement for life. But now I believe I have figured out why!
When is the last time you saw a food scientist on TV or in the media portrayed in a positive way? When is the last time a food company showed off their great food scientists to the world (not including the ads in food technology magazines that are created by and exclusively for food scientists). When is the last time a food scientist was nationally thanked for making the food supply safe, interesting and delicious?
How about never? There is absolutely no mention of food scientists because food manufacturers have decided it makes more sense to let the masses believe that all their food was prepared especially for them by silly rabbits, green giants, doughboys and a hamburger helper “hand”. While I can appreciate the need to lure in children and adults via the use of icons, would it hurt if the companies gave the food scientists just a little bit of publicity—if not to thank us for all our hard work but to at least promote the field in general by showing all that we can do? This would only help to generate interest and fill those emptying food science slots.
Well, actually it probably would hurt them because companies don’t want the masses to know that their food is *GASP* made by people who wear lab coats and studied science, because making food is an art and a craft not a science, right? Why would anyone want to create food in an organized safe and routine way? Much better to imagine that your cookies are being manufactured in a tree by elves or in aunt Jemima’s probably-not-HACCP-certified kitchen.
Considering the number of calls I get daily from recruiters begging me (and even offering me commission!) to help them find someone to fill this or that food science position, you would think that food companies would want to help promote the talent whom without they could not exist, and to help fill the empty positions all over the country.
I went to a Chicago section IFT dinner a few weeks ago and president John Ruff talked about the new and improved IFT (www.ift.org) website. There are some great links on the site to salary surveys, interviews with food scientists and educational opportunities. It was pointed out at the dinner that the website really preaches to the choir, and the only ones who go there are the ones who are already “in” the field. But then John showed us this chilling video, World Without Food Science™, a public education campaign created by the Institute of Food Technologists to generate awareness of the role that food science plays in ensuring a nutritious, safe and abundant food supply.
The video is chilling, but has a positive, upbeat ending that could inspire high school students to enter into this wide-open job market.