A western New York Community College is launching a first-its-kind Food Processing Technology program in the fall of 2014. The program at Genesee Community college will help meet the growing demand for skilled food processing workers in the region.
The food processing industry is rapidly growing in upstate New York with the opening of the Quaker/Muller and Alpina Greek yogurt manufacturing plants in Genesee County. GCC’s Director of Development and External Affairs, Rick Ensman, said the new program will produce the next generation of food storage specialists, regulatory experts and quality control technicians.
“Everything that we eat when we sit down at the table, has to be grown somewhere, caught somewhere, it has to be harvested, transported, and it has to be processed. So the food processing technology program is going to prepare students for a wide variety of jobs that occur between the point that crops come out of the field or meat comes off the farm and get to our dinner table," says Ensman.
Carol Murphy is the owner of Murphy Orchards in Burt, New York. She and her employees grow their own fruit, vegetables and herbs. They then process and jar them into jellies, jams, and unique flavored vinegars. Murphy says the skills that will be taught through the food processing program will be invaluable.
“There are a lot of things that go into processing things correctly so that you don’t lose the nutritional value, so that you don’t poison somebody, and those of us who do small scale food processing by in large we learned it from our grandmothers or we did a lot of studying on our own to learn how to do it. When started I would have been thrilled to find somebody who knew what they were doing so that I didn’t have to learn it all myself,” says Murphy.
Murphy says she would be more likely to hire someone with a qualification in food processing education, because their knowledge will be beneficial to businesses trying to keep up with constantly changing food safety regulations.
“Most of us learned by making stupid mistakes, and it would be wonderful to have people that already knew that and saved us a lot of stupid mistakes,” says Murphy.
The program has yet to be made official by the State Education Department, but the Rick Esman said the college is positive they will receive approval soon, having already secured $238,329 in funding for the program through the State University of New York.
“Students who are interested in the program can still get a head start on the non-food processing courses that they need right now. All of our food processing technology students will have to complete English courses, Science courses, economics, and business courses,” says Ensman.
Students who enroll in GCC’s program will receive an Associate’s degree in Applied Science that includes courses in sanitation, hazard analysis, and food labeling.