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.
At mid-century, long before “processed” became a dirty word among the health-conscious, the department changed its name to “Food Technology.” By the 1970s, the word “Technology” was gone and “Nutrition” was in.
And in 2011, the era of the White House kitchen garden, UMass opened a new research center devoted to “Foods for Health and Wellness.”