Food Science & Pollinators 2019

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Our inaugural Food Science & Pollinators day program took place on August 1st, and was the final program of our 2019 summer series.

We started off in Acadia University’s Nutrition department, where we learned about the science behind how our tastebuds work, and how we mentally process different flavours. To test out our senses, we worked in pairs to eat different flavours of fruit candies while blind-folded. How much of an impact does seeing the food we’re eating have on how we taste and process it? As it turns out, quite a bit! Our participants had a tough time identifying different flavours before being able to see the candy’s colour and shape. We kept on this theme of identifying different flavours and learned about mirror molecules like mint and caraway, and lemon and orange. The chemical structure of these pairs of molecules is the same (hence the similar flavour), just mirrored, like your left and right hands.

Next up, we got our hands busy by working in teams to bake 2 different kinds of apple pies. One was a traditional apple pie made with all the spices you’d think; the second was a mock apple pie, made without any trace of apples! By combining cream of tartar and ritz crackers, you mix together a compound that tastes almost exactly like apples! After baking these pies, we invited a guest student scientist named Rielle Hoeg from the Biology department to come and give them a try. She believed our mock apple pie was the real thing, which was another great example of how we can trick our tastebuds.

To finish off our morning, we had a VERY fun and silly time sampling a variety of different foods before and after having taken Miracle Berries. Miracle Berry tablets temporarily change your tastebuds so that everything sour tastes sweet, and everything sweet tastes even sweeter. The active compound is a natural chemical called miraculin, which after eaten binds to proteins in your food and activates the “sweet” tastebuds on your tongue no matter what the food actually tastes like. We made ranking scales to compare different foods, including lemon, cream cheese, balsamic vinegar, and orange juice. Some were delicious, and others absolutely horrible!

After lunch, we were treated to a fantastic conversation about careers in Food Science from Acadia’s Nutrition Department head, Dr. Barb Anderson. She talked to us all about what it’s like to study Nutrition (a 4-year Bachelor of Science) at the University level, and different careers that you can pursue from this degree, including becoming a Sport Dietician, Nutritionist, Food Scientist, and so much more. We also got to hear from volunteer Madison Doucet, a Diet Counsellor at Lotus Health Clinic in Halifax that specializes in obesity medicine. We were fascinated to hear about how Madison’s career combines knowledge on biochemistry, nutrition, and medicine to treat individuals with chronic medical conditions related to obesity (like type II diabetes). We then took a quick hike across Acadia’s campus to talk about the importance of conserving pollinator species, and what it means for food security around the world. Our participants had fantastic ideas about what we can do to help pollinator species, including planting plants that bees and butterflies love in your garden, and reducing how much food you waste.

We finished off our day of hands-on food science with a field trip to Cosman & Whidden Honey in Wolfville. While this local apiary (or bee farm) produces delicious honey, we were there to learn all about pollination and the fascinating social structure of honeybees. Cosman & Whidden Honey beekeeper Lauren took us on an amazing tour of their hives and processing facility, and we got to learn all about the complicated process of selecting Queen bees for their genetic traits. At the end of our tour, Lauren guided us through a taste test of different types of honey, all flavoured by the types of flowers that the hive gets nectar from.

Thank you to our volunteers Madison Doucet, Jade Robinson, Cassidy Collins, and Danni Harper for helping facilitate this program. Thanks also to Dr. Barb Anderson (WISEAcadia), and Lauren (Cosman & Whidden Honey) for supporting us and offering your time. We had a fantastic day of exploring food science and pollinators with you all!

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This program will be offered next in the summer of 2020.

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