This summer, Olivia Conrad, a fourth-year student from Yarmouth, Maine, majoring in food science and human nutrition, landed a sweet internship at one of Maine’s premier gelato companies.
Conrad was the food safety intern at the Gelato Fiasco Flavor Foundry in Brunswick, Maine, where pints are produced, packed and shipped nationwide.
She assisted the company in developing documentation for food inspectors and food quality/safety auditors. Conrad also helped the company prepare for the implementation of the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA), which all food producers must be in compliance with over the next few years.
Not all of Conrad’s days were in the office. In the kitchen, she assisted with product packaging, learning about the machinery and equipment used to run a growing food production operation. She also helped with employee training on best practices in hygiene and food safety.
Gelato Fiasco prides itself in embracing its Maine heritage. It uses locally sourced whole milk from Maine farms, as well as some of the state’s iconic seasonal ingredients, including blueberries, strawberries and maple syrup. Other flavors, like Maine Potato Donut and Red Flannel Whoopie Pie, are inspired by the state’s culture and identity.
Interning for a growing Maine company elevated Conrad’s own sense of pride for her home state and its small business market.
“It was fun for me to work for a company that originated in Maine and continues to grow and succeed in the business world — even outside of Maine,” says Conrad.
Jason Bolton, associate Extension professor and food safety specialist for University of Maine Cooperative Extension, helped line up Conrad’s internship. He works closely with food and beverage companies in Maine’s 16 counties, focusing on food safety, quality and facility design.
When he noticed most UMaine food science students completing their internships out of state, Bolton developed a program to help place students at internships in Maine companies.
“Interns are very beneficial to the smaller, fast-growing food businesses of Maine,” says Bolton. “Our students are gaining lots of important skills and they are doing it in Maine.”
The goal is for these internships to lead to employment opportunities in Maine, says Bolton, who has worked with Gelato Fiasco on its recent expansion design as well as with food safety protocols.
UMaine students offer an invaluable set of services and skills to the food businesses of Maine who may not have the resources available to acquire them through other means, Bolton said.
Conrad regards her internship as a rewarding and valuable experience. She credits it with helping her develop self-confidence in the workplace, as well as in her chosen career path.