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Local Food Scientist Turned Author: Can I Play with my Food?

Ali Manning, Food Scientist and all-around creative, says that one lecture changed the course of her entire life, and if that doesn’t showcase the importance of education, the rest of her story will.

“The professor said ‘you’ll always have a job because people always got to eat,'” Ali recalls. With that, Ali graduated from Alabama A&M in Huntsville and moved to Memphis. She took the plunge into the food industry, fell in love with the city of Memphis, and has not looked back. She embodies the idea of “Carpe Diem” and has numerous projects where her passion shines through.

Ali Manning is a jack of all trades. She is a food scientist, food consultant, Founder of Umami Food Consulting & Food Science 4 Kids, and Program Manager for Project Green Fork. Through Unami Food Consulting, she assists clients locally and nationally with product development, nutritional analysis, brand awareness, regulatory standards, food costing, and more.

“It is a consultancy I created in 2020 for food entrepreneurs. I recognized a need for support in the food space, especially with businesses of color, so I decided to utilize my background to help food entrepreneurs. Many of my clients are local and throughout the US like; Slim & Husky’s, Good Citizen Coffee, and City Tasting Box,” Ali states. Her work has continued to evolve with the launch of Food Science 4 Kids in 2020. Through FS4Kids, Ali educates young minds on the science of food production. Over two years, the program has continued to grow with partnerships with Botanic Gardens, Knowledge Quest, the Delta School, and most recently, STAR Academy.

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These critical partnerships allow Ali to educate over 100 children in Memphis and nationally by showing them the magic behind food. But, did you think she would stop there?

When February 22nd, 2022 rolls around, Ali will officially be a published author! “Can I Play with my Food?” is an early-reader picture book that explores food and science through the eyes of two sisters. Nema and Lexi let their imaginations run wild as they discover where food comes from and how a simple experiment can shape their dreams. This story shows children that playing with food can be fun and educational, highlighting the importance of acceptance. While others might think a disability like Down’s Syndrome is a hindrance, Nema and Lexi show us that the ingredients of compassion, acceptance, and love make anything possible.”

“This story shows children that playing with food can be fun and educational, but it also highlights the importance of acceptance.” – Ali Manning

Ali talks about how the book began as a passion project. She had forgotten some of the things she loved to do throughout her career, like poetry, skating, and drawing. The book was a way to combine her multifaceted life into one creative project. As the story flowed, it became clear this book could be beneficial to a child’s education by exposing them to food science and helping them better understand the food system. “It shows them that Black food scientist exists and highlights the importance of acceptance of other people, more specifically people with special needs,” Ali Says.

“It shows them that Black food scientists exists and highlights the importance of acceptance of other people, more specifically people with special needs.” – Ali Manning

Ali has worked with a wide range of Memphis students from Knowledge Quest to The Delta School, but one thing remains constant, kids enjoy food science. Ali says, “The highlight for me is when a child has a moment of realization that the simple things they do at home are considered food science (like cooking or baking). It’s like they’re able to connect the dots and apply what they’ve learned at home.”

This book will serve as an educational resource and can spark greater conversation on BIPOC children with Down’s Syndrome. “Teacher quality impacts student achievement. Teachers have the ability to provide a significant level of support, direction, and influence to students that can truly impact a child’s life,” Ali says.

“I’m excited to share more of my story and honor my sister in this way. We rarely see BIPOC children with Down’s Syndrome recognized in picture books, so I hope this sparks a greater conversation and awareness. I’m also excited for the opportunities that come for me to share more of what I do as a food scientist, consultant, educator, and all-around creative.”

You can pre-order Ali’s book on Amazon and Barnes & Nobel and will be available on February 22, 2022.

Find out more about Ali at

To explore job listings from Memphis leading schools and become a part of rewriting the future, check out Teach901.

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