By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, WINSTED, MN For the second year in a row, the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted FFA food science team placed first at the state competition, which took place at Minnesota State University-Mankato Jan. 6.
Because last year’s team placed first at the state competition, a whole new team had to be formed this year.
The new team consisted of freshmen Becca Welman and Lindsay Marketon, and sophomores Bethany Kozitka and Kira Karels.
Individually, Karels placed first, Marketon placed second, and Welman placed fourth in the competition.
The team competed against 16 other teams, and 64 individuals.
Because the team placed first, it will compete at the National FFA convention which will take place in October.
Although the team had already put in a lot of time studying, it studied more after arriving at the hotel the evening before the competition.
It was not until the end of November that the team was even formed, Marketon said.
“We practiced at least every other day after school,” Welman said.
The national champion food science team was also there to assist the young women, offering their opinions on practice presentations, and advice on what to say during product development.
The team also bought a lot of ingredients over Christmas break and spent many hours working on product development skills.
“We really pounded that over Christmas break,” Marketon commented.
Although the team studied hard, “We had a lot of fun learning something new,” Kozitka said.
“We received a lot of input from people walking by,” Karels said.
She explained that the team often practiced sitting in the hall, and other students would stop and help them.
On the day of the competition, the team was nervous at first, but nerves soon gave way to a fun day, Karels said.
“When we found out it was what we had practiced, it was not as nerve-racking,” Marketon said.
The product the team had to develop for the competition was a pork-based breakfast entree.
The team made a breakfast sandwich using an English muffin, scrambled eggs, ham, and cheese.
The team was surprised it placed first in the competition because it was the first year ever competing, Marketon said.
“We thought we’d be towards the top, but were surprised when they said HLWW was first,” Kozitka said.
The team credits the FFA advisors, Seena Glessing and Jim Weninger, for doing so well in competition.
“Mrs. Glessing and Winnie, working together they know a lot about (FFA) competition,” Marketon said.
How the competition works
The food competition consists of four individual categories and one team presentation.
The individual parts of the competition consist of sensory evaluation, a general knowledge exam, photo identification, and customer complaint letter.
For the sensory evaluation, each individual was tested for her knowledge of food identification.
For example, each individual was given three pieces of the same product, such as Wheat Thins, one of which is low fat or different in some other way.
The individual has to identify which of the three pieces is different.
The individuals also have to identify three different scents out of 10 possibilities. Examples would be cinnamon or orange.
The general knowledge exam tests each individual’s knowledge of food safety and consists of 50 questions.
Photo identification presents each individual with different pictures from factories or kitchens where food is prepared.
The individual identifies food safety violations within the pictures. Examples would be whether workers are properly washing their hands, or whether food is being stored properly.
For the customer complaint letter, each individual examines a letter written by a customer about a product the customer was not satisfied with.
The individual team member must determine whether the customer complaint is a food safety or a food quality issue, and respond to the letter.
For the team presentation, each team must present a product.
Each team has an idea before the competition what the product will be, but it does not know the ingredients until the competition.
It also does not know the target audience of the product until the day of the competition. For example, developing a product for a teenage audience would be different than developing a product for a senior-aged audience.
Teams have one hour to develop a nutrition label, determine a price, construct a package, and make the product.
After preparing the product, teams present it to a panel of judges with experience in food science.