This week, 20 high school students from Collier County explored food science, entrepreneurship and more on the University of Florida campus, thanks to the partnership of Taste of Immokalee, the UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition department and Florida 4-H.
The three-day experience, called the Taste x UF Experiential Program, is only the start of a several-month collaboration in which the high schoolers and their undergraduate mentors will team up to develop a new food product from initial concept to manufacture and marketing.
“Many of the students participating in this program are interested in the business, medical, or law career track. This trip to UF gave them the opportunity to learn how all of these different career paths can be combined with the food and science career path,” said Marie Capita, executive director of Taste of Immokalee.
“I don’t think they would have had the opportunity to learn this if they did not come up to UF and hear from the different speakers this week. Awareness of the food science career path is just one of the goals of this one-of-a-kind collaboration between Taste of Immokalee and UF,” Capita said.
After arriving on the UF campus on July 25, the high schoolers participated in two and a half days of activities, including a visit to the FSHN pilot plant to learn about coffee roasting, an entrepreneurship workshop at the UF Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering and a 3D food printing demonstration.
The youth also met with representatives from the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the UF chapter of MANNRS and Gator Dining to learn about academic and career paths in food science and related fields.
“Right now, there are more job openings for people with food science degrees than there are new graduates to fill them. This is evidence that not enough high school and college students are aware of the opportunities a food science degree offers. We hope that by working with organizations like Taste of Immokalee, we can help more students see a future for themselves in the field,” said Sue Percival, professor and chair of the food science and human nutrition department.
Taste of Immokalee is a benefit corporation committed to empowering youth to rise out of poverty and influence positive change in their community, with the business and leadership skills needed to succeed in college and in professional careers.
The UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition department is one of the world’s largest combined academic programs where food science, nutritional sciences, and dietetics are all studied within one department.
The Florida 4-H program played a critical role in making the program a reality by providing scholarships for youth to attend. Gifts to the Taste x UF Experiential Program fund help provide scholarships for future participants.