Only 36 teachers nationwide recently completed a food science training program developed and implemented in a partnership between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and Graduate School USA.
McCleskey Middle School teacher Annette Simpson was one of the teachers selected to participate in the one-week program that explored the science behind the nation’s food supply.
The training was designed for middle and high school science teachers, as well as family and consumer science and health education teachers, took place in Washington this summer.
The training is part of the FDA Professional Development Program in Food Science, a sustained effort to train U.S. teachers to use FDA’s curriculum in their classrooms nationwide. The goal of the program is to educate teachers and students about critical food safety issues such as foodborne illnesses by exploring the science behind them. The program arms teachers with a unique topic and curriculum with which to teach science.
Participants learn about nutrition, food allergies, cosmetics safety, and color additives from FDA experts. Teachers also receive nutrition education material to help teach their students how to use the Nutrition Facts label to make better food choices.
“Many teenage students have jobs in the foodservice industry or have food preparation responsibilities at home,” said Louise Dickerson, FDA’s Project Manager for the Professional Development Program in Food Science. “This program will better educate them about the importance of handling food safely and why precautions must be taken. From the FDA’s perspective, our professional development program for teachers is an effective way to support the goal of reducing the incidence of foodborne illness in this country.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 6 Americans get sick from food poisoning each year. During the training, teacher participants learned firsthand about the development and spread of foodborne illnesses; the vulnerability of at-risk populations; and the science behind safe food handling, storage, and preparation.
Teachers also learned how to better use the Nutrition Facts label to assess the nutritional value of foods. In addition, the teachers talked with scientists from FDA and conducted laboratory experiments to further increase their understanding of food science.
Among the topics covered, teachers investigated how a single bacteria cell can multiply to millions in just a few hours, and they observed how different temperatures (heating, room temperature, chilling, and freezing) affect the growth of bacteria. The teachers explored these concepts by putting their culinary skills to the test. After cooking hamburgers to various temperatures, the teachers tested them for bacteria and other organisms that cause disease.
The food science program is centered on a standards-based curriculum developed by the FDA in partnership with NSTA. The Science and Our Food Supply curriculum is available online for free for any teacher (www.fda.gov/teachsciencewithfood). It explores the science behind the production, transportation, storage, and preparation of our nation’s food supply, and contains a video, hands-on experiments and activities, and evaluation tools.
The food safety curriculum covers aspects of food science that affect millions of people every day, such as how a traceback investigation is used to stop the additional sale and distribution of contaminated food and the likelihood of certain foods to cause foodborne illness more than others. The companion nutrition curriculum offers lesson plans on nutrients to get more of, nutrients to get less of, and meal planning. For information on this exciting curriculum and information on how to apply to participate in the FDA Food Science Professional Development Program in Summer 2020, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.