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Posted on May 31, 2016

The Science of Food

They know each other well, having been a team for four years, and they know what they are capable of.

So although they finished a couple of spots higher last year, the seventh-place that the Quincy FFA Food Science team scored at this year’s FFA state conference feels like an achievement rather than a disappointment.

Shayla Appling, Dylan Baty, Luis Ferreyra and Hannah Safe have been to state all four years, placing the last three years. As sophomores, they finished eighth, as juniors third and this year seventh.

Nobody is hanging their heads.

“I think we did better this year than last year,” Safe said. Scores were better, but competition was tougher.

Besides, they know how hard it is to make state, to prepare for it and to compete at it.

“We studied really hard,” Safe said.

“It’s a 50-question, multiple-choice, general-knowledge thing, then there’s the aroma identification, where you have to smell something and have to guess what that is,” Baty said. “Then there’s the triangle test, with three samples of the same product but one of the samples would be low-fat, or there would be something different about it and you have to be able to identify that.”

The team scored a combined 98 percent on the 50-question test.

With four years of preparation, once-mundane tasks like going to the supermarket or a cafeteria have become a bit more complex.

“It definitely makes you more analytical, you check out the safety procedures, or you check out their posters and see if they have the right guidelines down,” Appling said.

“Sometimes you go places, and you go, “Ew, lovely,” Safe agreed, scrunching her face. “Other times, you go, ‘Oh, I don’t see anything wrong with this one.’”

Other times, they are not so lucky, like when one team member was eating cherry filling (what you find on cheesecakes) and found a cherry pit. When told that perhaps that’s what one gets for eating cherry filling, the team member laughed and said that perhaps the maker should keep a closer eye on the cherry pits.

Another part of the competition is diagnosing customer complaints about products.

“We have to determine if it’s safety(-related) or quality(-related),” Appling said. “And if it’s something physical, chemical or biological.” A physical issue would mean there was something tangibly wrong with the product. A chemical issue could mean things like an allergic reaction. A biological issue could mean things like bacteria or a foodborne illness.

With trips to Pullman for FFA now a thing of the past for the four seniors, the talk turns to what happens next. Last year Baty received scholarship money for his performance at State FFA. However, that money only kicks in if he majors in food science.

“I don’t want to major in food science, but I would be interested in minoring in it,” said Baty, an incoming frosh at Washington State University.

Safe also scored a scholarship, but the scholarship also kicks in under the same parameters. Safe said she’s more interested in nutrition and dietetics.

No matter the road they choose, they will always have Pullman.

“We did our best,” Appling said.

“It’s not a closed chapter,” Ferreyra agreed. “The knowledge we gained in food science made us a more aware consumer. We know what to look for in our foods.”

Considering that nearly all their foods are cooked by their parents, the foursome says the folks at home aren’t exactly thrilled with the newfound knowledge.

“They don’t really appreciate it,” Appling said with a chuckle. “It’s like ‘Ooo, you didn’t wash your hands long enough.’”


— By Sebastian Moraga,

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