Food Science: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

Why is it important that you eat your vegetables? How does mold grow on bread? These and other fascinating questions are answered by food scientists on a daily basis. In this lesson, you will learn about food science and why it is important.

What is Food Science?

At some point in your life, perhaps in the middle of building a mashed potato Eiffel Tower, you've been told not to play with your food. For food scientists, using food for something other than a meal or snack is actually their job.

Food science is simply the study of food. Food scientists use various methods to study all about the food we eat. This includes examining the makeup of food, how to process (or make) it, and what packaging and conditions make it safe for us to eat.

The Science Inside Our Food

Food scientists run experiments to determine the makeup of our food.
test tubes

A large part of food science is studying the makeup of our food--what's inside that we can't see with our eyes. Food chemistry examines what fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and so forth are present in our food. Through experiments, food chemists can tell what foods are high in vitamins and minerals, like spinach and carrots, and what foods are not, like candy and icing.

Food chemistry also examines what happens when a food is prepared or combined with other foods. For example, food chemists examine what causes bread to rise when yeast is added, or what happens to the vitamins and minerals in vegetables when they are boiled, roasted, or steamed. Who knew people actually wanted to study brussel sprouts!

Food chemistry helps people understand the health benefits of food and the best ways to prepare it.

Engineering Food

Food engineers may determine that freezing a vegetable is the best way to keep it fresh.
frozen food

Another area of food science is food engineering, which studies the best processes to make and package food. For example, food engineering might examine the best way to package meat or dairy products so they don't spoil before being shipped to a store. If you've ever tasted sour milk, you know how important this area really is! Engineers may also investigate whether freezing, canning, or selling a food fresh is the best way to package it.

Food engineers also look at ways to make new food products or change foods to get a desired taste. For example, engineers may look at ways to add a fat to ice cream to give the food a creamier texture. Likewise, they could discover how to remove gluten from a bread recipe so people who cannot eat gluten are still able to enjoy the bread.

Keeping Food Safe

Food scientists determine safe temperatures for storing and cooking food.
food thermometer

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