Fort Valley State University has established a new degree program to meet the needs of a growing industry.
The food science bachelor’s program, offered through the school’s College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology, focuses on food technology and manufacturing.
“There’s a critical need in this region for a four-year food science program. Georgia’s agribusiness industry is huge, and it’s consistently contributed more than $70 billion a year,” said Govind Kannan, dean of the College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology.
This is one field that is always going to have jobs, because people are always going to have to eat and because of the need to increase quality food production.
Govind Kannan, Fort Valley State University dean of the College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology
The industry is one of the biggest in the state — and around the globe, said Young Park, coordinator and professor of Fort Valley’s food science program. One-third of agribusiness jobs in Georgia are related to food manufacturing, but there just aren’t enough food scientists, Kannan said.
“There are so many food industries recruiting workforce, but they cannot fill the positions,” Park said. “It’s an ever-growing (industry). It truly is one of the most important things for survival in the world.”
Graduates will be qualified for jobs in food safety and inspection, manufacturing, processing, consumer relations, merchandising, and animal and plant health, as well as for positions with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and state agencies. Park said about 95 percent of University of Georgia food science majors find jobs in the field before graduation.
Nationally, there aren’t many schools with the program. Fort Valley and the University of Georgia are the only two state institutions that offer it, said Park, who wrote the proposal for the Department of Agriculture grant that provided core funding. UGA’s food science department served as a consultant and support system for Fort Valley as the school created its program.
Fort Valley already had the infrastructure and faculty to offer the program, which was approved by the University System’s Board of Regents this summer, Kannan said. The only additional hire will be a research scientist with a food and microbiology background.
The food science program will be available starting in the spring semester, and the university is expecting a full first class. The curriculum includes core math and science classes, as well as food-specific courses on engineering, product development, quality control, safety, analysis, chemistry and microbiology.
“This is one field that is always going to have jobs, because people are always going to have to eat and because of the need to increase quality food production,” Kannan said.