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Memphis food scientist says you now have permission to play with your food, in the name of science

“I tell people I play with food for a living. It’s true. I think play is a part of exploration and education,” said Ali Manning, Food Science 4 Kids.

MEMPHIS, Tenn — Memphis food scientist Ali Manning shows just how fun it can be using everyday household items and food in a creative way.

Remember growing up and your parents saying, “Don’t play with your food?”

Well, you can, and it may be a good thing if you do.

“I encourage getting messy, for your hands to be dirty because it’s all a part of the learning experience,” said Manning, a Food Scientist, Umami Food Consulting founder, and Food Science 4 Kids creator.

“I tell people I play with food for a living. It’s true. I think play is a part of exploration and education,” said Manning.

She teaches healthy eating in a scientific way.

While setting up her mobile lab at Overton Park on Monday, Manning attracted some little food enthusiasts of her own.

“Children eat what parents provide for them," Manning said. "It’s up to the parents to make healthy choices. Right, for the little ones. In my classes, children learn about baking science, ice cream science. They understand where their food is coming from. They understand the importance of agriculture, food sources, and the food system."

She started Food Science 4 Kids during the pandemic hosting virtual demonstrations.

Now, she visits schools, libraries, and special events showing how different foods work such as using carbonated items to blow up a balloon or vinegar to create eruptions.

“Many of the things that we do can be pulled from the pantry,” said Manning. “Food is a science and people don’t necessarily always think about that. I’m excited to kind of give them a fresh perspective. I want to make sure that when the kids come to my class, they not only learn about where food comes from but they have a fun time and they’re able to apply it at home as well.”

The goal is to make healthy eating a habit.

“It’s a part of the culture and behavioral changes. Healthy children then become healthy teens and healthier adults…In food science education, I think little ones are able to understand that from the very beginning seeds grow your food. Your food then becomes products that you should consume. We should consume more healthy products,” said Manning.

Manning is also the author of the children’s book, “Can I Play with my Food?”

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