Tessa Anderson spent a semester in the U.S. Virgin Islands taking part in the EARTH Service Learning Program. She said this experience taught her how to get the most use out of food without letting it go to waste. Contributed photo.

Experiencing culinary food science outside the U.S.

When she leaves Iowa State to pursue her next adventure, one thing this culinary food science student will take with her is the experience she gained from spending a semester in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Tessa Anderson, senior in culinary food science, spent the spring semester of her junior year taking part in the EARTH Service Learning Program. The semester-long program has undergraduate students teach pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students in the Caribbean and U.S. Virgin Islands about food and agriculture. The college students also learn about the culture of the area’s agriculture and ecosystems.

During her time with the program, Anderson worked in the Gifft Hill School on the island of St. John. As part of a farm-to-table class at the school, she taught students how to grow fruits and vegetables in the school garden. The students then learned how to prepare meals using the harvested produce.

The same produce grown at the garden also was used at the local soup kitchen. Anderson went there once a week to assist the chef with preparing a meal. Many of the foods used were incorporated from the school garden. She said she learned a lot working alongside the chef.

“It increased my passion and appreciation for fresh produce, and I learned how to incorporate it into everyday diets,” Anderson said.

One thing she walked away with from the experience was how to get the most use out of food without letting it go to waste. The chef she worked alongside never threw any food into the garbage – it all was used in one way or another.

“The things she was able to teach me and her passion for the students and the students’ health” are what Anderson said will have a lasting impact on her.

Erica Beirman, senior lecturer in the food science and human nutrition department, said she saw a change in Anderson once she returned at the end of her semester abroad.

“The EARTH internship seemed to help Tessa grow in her confidence, and she returned to campus with a clear set of professional goals,” Beirman said.

Following graduation, Anderson has accepted a position at Buddy’s Kitchen, where she will work in the area of quality, operations, and innovation and design. Her ultimate goal is to one day work with hunger relief.

Her advice to fellow students is to take part in programs and clubs about which they are passionate. For instance, Anderson’s involvement in The S.H.O.P., a campus food pantry, feeds her desire to help individuals gain access to food they might not otherwise get.

“If you have a passion, there’s a way to use that passion to help people,” Anderson said.