Before the Food Science & Technology Department was created in 1968 by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, there were teaching, research and extension programs in that area in the Departments of Horticulture, Dairy Science, Animal Science and Poultry Science. In the mid-1950's and early 1960's there were eight full time faculty positions in those departments whose responsibilities fell essentially in the area of food science. All faculty had active research programs in the food science area which were geared to assist the food industries in Virginia. There was also a functioning food industry advisory committee to the Food Technology section of the Department of Horticulture.
The Department of Horticulture establishes a Food Technology Option in its teaching program. That option includes undergraduate courses taught by Dr. Anthony Lopez aided by Professor Charles Wood in food processing, chemistry, analysis and packaging. Later a course in fruit and vegetable processing taught by Dr. Bill Cooler is introduced. The Food Technology Option adds courses in dairy , meat and poultry processing, and agricultural engineering fundamentals.
The Institute of Food Technologists recognizes Virginia Polytechnic Institute as having a program in Food Science and Technology that complied with the recommendations of IFT for programs eligible to receive IFT scholarships. Two IFT undergraduate scholarships are awarded to students in the Option in the early 1960's. Graduate programs leading to both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in the Food Technology Option of the Department of Horticulture are also instituted.
1950's to mid-1960's
The research facilities feature a poultry processing plant, a meat slaughtering facility, a fruit and vegetable processing laboratory, food chemistry and food analysis laboratories. The 5,000 sq. ft. fruit and vegetable processing laboratory is finished in 1965. It is made possible by a special appropriation by the Virginia Legislature which is spearheaded and strongly supported by food processors located in the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
Virginia Legislature appropriates funds for constructing a second addition to the Food Technology building to house a dairy processing plant laboratory for food science research in the Departments of Horticulture and Animal Science.
Led by Dr. Lopez, an addition to the then existing pilot plant and laboratory facilities is designed to bring together faculty and staff from the Departments of Horticulture, Animal Science, Dairy Science and Poultry Science. The Virginia Farm Bureau and the Virginia Division of Industrial Development are the principle supporters of this second Virginia Legislature appropriation for construction funds for Food Science and Technology.
The department is formed. The physical facilities included in the Department are four pilot plants (meats, poultry, dairy, and fruit and vegetable processing) and a food analysis laboratory.
A dairy technology area, laboratory, and office wing of the Food Science building is finished.
The teaching laboratory, food biochemistry laboratory and office is completed. The meat pilot plant is remodeled to conform to state regulations for establishments processing meat.
A faculty position in wines is added from the Department of Horticulture along with an office, lab and small winery pilot plant.
Additional research laboratories are established in Fralin Hall and in the Integrated Life Sciences Building (ISLB) in the VT Corporate Research Center.
The meats processing and slaughter facilities are moved to Animal and Poultry Sciences.
The department expands into the new Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building (HABB1) which is shared with Biological Systems Engineering. The new facility, located across the street from the Food Science building, provides the department with additional laboratories, pilot plant, sensory lab and kitchen facilities, conference rooms, graduate student research spaces and faculty and staff offices. The 88,200 GSF building is the first of four buildings planned in this area of campus dedicated to the demands of human and agricultural biosciences research and discovery.