December 10, 2018
By April Diederich, RDN, CSR
With our eyes to the future, the Marilyn Magaram Center is leading innovation in food science, nutrition and dietetics. We all know the importance of nutrition education, but how do we get it into the hands of a busy parent that has just been diagnosed with diabetes? We all know convenience foods often contain excessive salt, but how do we make low sodium food taste great? How do we utilize our surroundings to create a sustainable campus? These are some of the problems the MMC has been busy solving.
Artificial intelligence (AI) will change the landscape of nutrition education, bringing nutrition professionals into the hands of anyone holding a smart device. CSUN hosted its first AI-JAM, a student competition aimed at solving a problem using artificial intelligence tools. The MMC supported team “Helia: Nutrition and Health”, a top 3 finalist at AI-JAM, in their vision to create a platform that uses artificial intelligence and image recognition to increase accuracy of an individual’s food intake. This innovative food journal connects individuals to a Registered Dietitian, who can work with the individual to improve health outcomes and increase health awareness.
Virtual reality (VR) and Augmented reality (AR) are tools nutrition and food science professionals can use to bring new life to their services. CSUN hosted VARJAM, a student based competition using VR and AR technology to improve health, productivity, and quality of life. The MMC supported team “GSTAR”, a top 2 finalist at VARJAM, in their vision to create an augmented reality platform that allows users scan grocery store aisles from their phone to find the best choices based on their individual health needs.
Many American’s have heard their doctor recommend that they eat less salt, but struggle when it comes to adding flavor to meals. The MMC has been working to create new flavorful food products, with little to no sodium. CSUN hosts “Fast Pitch” a student competition to present a new product to a distinguished panel of judges, for the chance to win money to fund their new business venture.
The MMC supported team “Matador Sol Sauce”, 2nd place winner and Audience’s Choice Winner at Fast Pitch 2018, in their new flavorful, low sodium hot sauce made with habanero pepper, pineapple, and turmeric. In 2017, the MMC supported team “Spicy Matador”, 2nd place winner and Audience Choice Winner, in their delicious salt-free spice blend formulated from herbs grown in the MMC Wellness Garden.
The MMC supports sustainable food production by using locally sourced ingredients, most recently with the release of “Bee A Matador” wildflower honey, made from beehives on campus. This new MMC product has created a “buzz” around campus, selling out the first month it was available for purchase. “Bee A Matador” is a collaboration between the MMC and Dr. Rachel Mackelprang, CSUN Biology professor and beekeeper, who studies beneficial bacteria in bees and the factors that might negatively impact bee health. Healthy bees are vital, as bees pollinate many of our food crops. In the first round of honey collection, Dr. Mackelprang’s team of students and our MMC interns centrifuged, filtered, and bottled almost 100 pounds of honey! Labels were designed by MMC interns as they practice hands-on product development skills. The hives reside in the CSUN orange groves, which impart flavorful notes that landed “Bee A Matador” with the People’s Choice Award at a recent honey competition hosted by The Valley Hive in Chatsworth, that included over 30 honey varieties.
The MMC product line continues to grow, with two current Food Science projects: FITJams (jams with added health benefits using functional foods in classic preserves) and Matador PRO (nutrient dense, high protein sports bars without artificial sugar). MMC’s product line started two years ago with “Matador Marmalade” a sweet citrus-packed condiment made from handpicked oranges from the CSUN orange groves. Matador Marmalade, Spicy Matador, and Bee A Matador are available for purchase online and in- person at the Marilyn Magaram Center.
The Marilyn Magaram Center continues to serve the needs of diverse communities and encourages the public to draw on the special talents of its students, faculty, and staff through a variety of innovative programs and services. The MMC has truly become an “Innovation Hub” for Food Science, Nutrition, Dietetics and Nutrition Experts in our mission to promote good health and well-being and provide exceptional products and services to the CSUN community and beyond!