Liz Ricci, Campbell Nutrition Intern
After finally picking the right outfit, getting lost three times and having to dodge rain drops, I somehow made it on time to my first day as a Campbell Soup Company Global Nutrition Intern. I felt right at home surrounded by nostalgic childhood favorites and people working for a purpose, but what did I expect to learn from the food industry? I never challenged the misconceptions I gathered as an undergraduate nutrition student and thought maybe the food industry is all about the bottom line. Well I was very wrong…
A LOT of Work Goes into What’s on Your Label
When my mom and I go food shopping, she always dreads when we get to the packaged food aisles because I take my time reading product labels. Prior to my internship, I never understood how much work goes into creating labels. Nutrition and Regulatory professionals work closely with marketers, product developers and quality assurance professionals to ensure that everything on the label is substantiated by the product inside. For example, if a label has a gluten-free claim it must pass rigorous testing on multiple occasions before it hits the shelves. Teams scrutinize ingredients, carefully organize production schedules, and test products throughout the entire process. It was eye opening to see the man power it takes to ensure products have accurate labels.
Ingredients Aren’t So Scary Anymore
I used to quickly pass by foods with unfamiliar ingredients, now I take a deeper look and make an informed choice. At Campbell, I learned more about food science and the ingredients listed on the label. Campbell’s websites, www.whatsinmyfood.com and www.campbellnutrition.com provide even more information on products and ingredients. Now I understand that ingredients can have an unfamiliar name, but serve a simple function in keeping our food safe or helping it have the taste and texture we expect.
Processing Plants Reminiscent of my Oma’s Kitchen
One of my most memorable experiences was touring the pilot plant to see the staff make a trial batch of soup. They measured fresh, chopped carrots from bins the size of those that hold pumpkins in supermarkets. As the soup cooked, the aroma in the plant reminded me of my Oma’s kitchen growing up. The only things missing from the processing plant were her linoleum floors and a fridge stocked with liverwurst (thankfully). Food production plants are much larger and have very different equipment but ingredients still are chopped, assembled and cooked, just on a much larger scale. Despite obvious differences, I learned that Campbell puts the same care into safely making delicious foods for customers as my Oma did for our family.
Campbell Gives Back
Campbell donates time, resources and their facilities to improve local communities. While I was an intern, I packed and labeled jars of salsa for the annual Just Peachy salsa production. This project takes local peaches from farmers that would otherwise go to waste due to imperfections in appearance and uses them to make a tasty salsa. Campbell donates other ingredients for the salsa recipe and packing materials as well as the manufacturing plant and man power needed to make and package the finished product. Just Peachy is sold in local supermarkets and the proceeds benefit the Food Bank of South Jersey. I felt inspired by how Campbell uses their resources to combat societal problems in new and exciting ways.
My experiences provided invaluable knowledge about how our food is made and helped me build skills as a student and future nutrition professional. Nutrition professionals have a key role to play in the food industry with the potential to greatly impact public health. Like nutrition professionals in all areas of practice, the Global Nutrition team shares the same goal of providing great tasting, affordable, and nutritious foods to the public. I look forward to my future in nutrition and dietetics and know I will carry this experience with me, no matter what lies ahead.
Liz’s BioLiz worked as a Nutrition Intern for the Global Nutrition department over the summer of 2017. She worked on diverse projects, attended conferences, and learned about nutrition and the food industry. Liz recently graduated from West Chester University with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics. Currently, she is working on her Master’s degree in Community Nutrition at West Chester University and applying to dietetic internships. She hopes to keep spreading the truth about nutrition wherever life takes her!