Volume 20 | issue nº 3 Winter 2019

Good Nutrition, From the Lab to Your Home

By Naseem Ferdowsi

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The New Fouad El-Abd Food Innovation Lab will take student learning to the next level.

Fouad El-Abd, the founder and president of leading canned food company California Gardens, and LAU President Joseph G. Jabbra cut the ribbon of the university’s Fouad El-Abd Food Innovation Lab on Byblos campus in October. Marking the official inauguration of the campus’ newest facility, the special event in October drew dozens of supporters, faculty, staff and students to celebrate and tour the nearly 100-square-meter functional space, which is comprised of a core kitchen lab, a support lab service room and meeting room.

The cutting-edge lab, located on the ground floor of the Science Building, was made possible by El-Abd’s substantial donation to LAU two years ago. Thanking the donor for his generosity, Dr. Jabbra said during the inauguration’s signing ceremony, “On behalf of the LAU family, including faculty and Nutrition Program students, I would like to thank you from the depths of our hearts for your generous gift and what you have done for our community.”

El-Abd shared with attendees his vision for his namesake lab. “The tahini and hummus business in the United States is a billion-dollar business, which is incredible. And with Lebanese and Arab cuisine having a vast menu of food that is becoming very popular around the world, there is so much potential for students who can use the lab to innovate and keep all our dreams and traditions alive,” he said. He later presented Dr. Jabbra with a can of hummus that had been taken to outer space and back as part of California Gardens’ partnership with NASA to supply the food to the International Space Station.

“This lab will greatly enrich our experience at LAU as nutritionists or food scientists,” said LAU Nutrition student Romy Louis, who is in her senior year. “Whether we are planning to end up in the food industry, community sector, or clinical setting, this lab will definitely be a plus in reaching our future goals,” explained Louis, who had a chance to take part in inauguration activities and meet El-Abd.

After the signing ceremony, the donor and attendees visited the lab to see the facility firsthand. Associate Professor Nadine Zeeni, who is also the coordinator of LAU’s Nutrition Program, was on hand to discuss specifications of the lab with attendees. “The lab will enhance LAU’s positioning in the nutrition field, giving an edge to the program in terms of hands-on practice to relate culinary, nutritional and food-safety theory to practical applications,” said Dr. Zeeni.

In addition to being a huge asset for the Nutrition Department, the multifunctional lab will be used by students in the Department of Hospitality Management and Marketing, as well as by external entities at a cost, enabling the university to generate profit from the space.

“From time to time, we get approached by local food industries to help them carry out research and development projects This will be a paid service, and as such it is a win-win collaboration for the industry and LAU,” said Dr. Hussein F. Hassan, associate professor of food science and technology and associate chairperson of the Department of Natural Sciences.

The university’s Facilities Management team was also present to provide attendees with an overview of the new lab and the great effort it took to develop the high-tech space.

“Because the original premises did not have the adequate logistical requirements for housing a state-of-the-art food lab intended for academic and research activities, design and execution were extremely challenging. But we were able to find special solutions to address functional, architectural and safety-related challenges,” explained Assistant Vice President for Facilities Management Georges Hamouche, who thanked his team, consultants, contractor and suppliers for the project’s successful outcome.