Michael Abernathy, a junior nutrition and food systems major at Southern Miss, created goat cheese pizza for the Department of Nutrition and Food Systems second annual Nutrition and Food Systems Expo held at The University of Southern Mississippi. -Courtesy photo
While The University of Southern Mississippi is rife with artists of the visual variety, and those of culinary inclinations are just as important. Students in NFS 430, a course otherwise known as Experimental Foods, seem to be Southern Miss’ best kept secret.
Fortunately, community members and connoisseurs alike had the chance to make the rounds at the Nutrition and Food Systems Expo and experience NFS 430’s gastronomic artistry.
The event took place Tuesday, April 14, as Experimental Food students presented their dishes to attendees in the College of Health’s food laboratory. Each dish was made from a minimum of eight local ingredients selected from 32 different ingredient options. The event was open to the USM campus and the Hattiesburg community. According to Southern Miss Now, over 100 guests participated.
Attendees helped the students assess if their experimental recipes were adequate as meals. Dishes included goat cheese pizza and a cake made of beets. For the purpose of allowing guests to make judgments, the students provided sensory measures and evaluations for their respective dishes, according to Southern Miss Now.
According to Hanna Knowles, assistant to the dean of College of Health, the presented food was more than adequate enough to make some impressions.
“Judging by their reactions as they taste-tested the food, it was evident guests were impressed with the creative recipes,” Knowles said.
Students enrolled in Experimental Foods have taken the semester in its entirety to learn to develop recipes and deeply understand the characteristics of food. The Expo, according to Knowles, was their chance to showcase what they had been up to all this time.
Knowles also said the students are dedicated to improving the health of Mississippi residents.
“The Expo helps educate students and our community that it’s possible to eat healthy local food in Mississippi,” Knowles said.
“It’s important to pause and think about the complete picture of our food: where it comes from, the livelihood of the farmers, the impact on our local economy and the nutritional benefits of eating fresh seasonal products.”
Alicia Landry, professor of the Experimental Foods course, oversaw the food’s creation and execution. According to Landry, the foods are considered local because of their contribution to the Mississippi farming economy.
“Local foods are important for local economies,” Landry said. “They often embody cherished traditions that need to be recognized. When students showcase their talent, knowledge and ability, I believe we all benefit.”
Landry also shared her enthusiasm for the Nutrition and Food Systems department because of its array of opportunities.
“Nutrition is a diverse field with many career options, and we strive to prepare our students to succeed,” Landry said. “Our students are hard-working, dedicated and involved. What more could you ask for?”
More information about the Department of Nutrition and Food Systems can be found at usm.edu/nutrition.