Students involved in the Oregon Outdoors course at Waldport High School traveled to Albany last month to take a first hand look first at the process of making freeze dried camp food. Our destination was Oregon Freeze Dry, Inc., the parent company for the Mountain House brand. In our ecotourism-focused outdoor education class, the students had been discussing preparation and planning for trail excursions, and this included learning about food and water options. Many of the students had also taken part in our Teen Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) during which they looked at shelf-stable food options for natural disaster preparedness.
The Vice President of Manufacturing, John Damon and Director of Research and Development, Drew Huebsch met the students at the main office to give them an overview of the company, its mission and the education pathway that could lead to a career in food science. President Jim Merryman, who fishes the Alsea Bay, stopped by to welcome our students to his facility. After the introductions and a freeze-dried ice cream sandwich, the class toured and took part in a taste test and data gathering in the Research and Development Department. The staff explained the process of getting a product to market; from the initial idea through to insuring its taste profile is intact at the end of its published shelf life.
Leaving R&D we were taken to the manufacturing plant to see the process from individual ingredients, through cooking, freeze-drying, packaging and quality control. Along the way, students were introduced to data stations set up around the plant that lets all workers see their productivity rates, and see how that impacts the company, and as a result, their profit sharing bonus. The students were impressed with how much input each worker – at every level – has on making the process better.
Many thanks to the Oregon Coast STEM Hub for providing the transportation and substitute funds needed for students to go on this field trip to Oregon Freeze Dry!
My favorite part was learning about how the food was made. -Trevor Bjelke
I really enjoyed the taste-testing part, and wearing all that fancy gear! -Lacey McDaniel
I liked going into a working environment and seeing what it is like. -Michael Mordecai
My favorite part was trying the beef stroganoff taste testing, and I learned a small amount of added flavor makes a lot of difference. -Emma Strampe
My favorite part was the [freeze dried] ice cream. -Damie Miller
There are many fields that are involved in this company. The food was amazing and the way they processed it was cool. -Nick Grant-Grierson
I learned that -20 is way way way colder than I thought! -Lacey McDaniel
My favorite part of the field trip was touring the factory, getting to wear the protective gear and using their automatic hand washer. It was surprising to see that it wasn’t super, super high tech. Anybody would be able to work there. -Hannah Houck
Melissa Steinman is a teacher at Waldport High School. In addition to Oregon Outdoors, she teaches Ocean Engineering, Oceanography, Integrated Science and TeenCERT, and serves as Athletic Director. She also coordinates the Cadet Fire Fighter program, and will be bringing student teams to the Oregon Regional MATE ROV Competition in April.