Today, the big kitchen buzzwords are “fresh” and “local,” but a hundred years ago, the action was in preservation: finding ways to make fruits and vegetables last longer. In 1913, a professor in UMass’s department of horticulture began lecturing to fruit growers on safe food preservation techniques. Within five years — due in part to a high demand for preserved foods during World War I — the UMass department of food science was born. Believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, the department claims a role in the development of federal food standards, as well as in the science that led to such 20th-century innovations as dried sweetened cranberries and canned shrimp.
In its 95-year history, what’s now known as UMass Food Science has gone through a number of name changes. While some came about as a result of department mergers, the department’s semantic journey still tells an interesting tale about Americans’ changing attitudes toward eating.