The fact that “everyone needs to eat” led me to study food science in college, as I believed it would offer future job security. Since then, I’ve learned that food not only can feed people, but teach them. Food not only offers insight to a wealth of science and technology, but is an ideal vehicle for learning key skills such as problem solving and teamwork. These skills—along with effectively communicating scientific concepts—are necessary to develop tomorrow’s leaders.

Since childhood, problem solving and teamwork have been an important part of my life. Between my mother’s teaching career and my father leading a church, my four siblings and I had to pitch in and put our rivalries aside in order to help keep the family fed. From this, I learned the importance of staying focused on solutions and to not get hung up on day-to-day problems.

Such skills can and should be incorporated organically into the way we teach others. Whether using team-based activities to solve math problems or using small groups to analyze and present literary discussions, most subjects can be used to teach teamwork and problem solving. Food offers a way to teach these skills, while also communicating science in an understandable way.

People have lost a personal connection with their food and the science behind it. When people don’t understand where their food comes from, they lose an intimate connection with something they put into their bodies. Food can teach complex science and technology concepts to any age. Imagine a group of elementary school students learning chemistry by understanding the key ingredients behind what makes a favorite cake rise. We use such practical methods to teach employees how their actions keep food safe and of the highest quality.

Teamwork, problem solving, and the ability to communicate complex ideas in a simple way all are key to tackling tomorrow’s challenges. Food preparation, by touching everyone’s lives, offers a window to learning creative problem solving and effective teamwork. In my experience, technical know-how is a requirement. Good leaders effectively communicate this knowledge to solve problems and work together. We must take every opportunity to help today’s students learn and practice these skills, so they can lead us into the future.