There could be a future where we eat incredible, sustainable, engineered foods—3D-printed or lab-grown meals, chemically optimized to unleash the perfect combination of flavor and nutrients to fit our bodies and our tastes. Better tasting hot dogs with harmful fats removed! Healthier snacks with accurate expiration dates! Or, we can continue on our present path, and Americans will keep eating the same foods we always have, including foods that make us sick and obese. If the United States would like a say in the future of food, the government and the people need to start paying attention to our food scientists.

Take Karen Schaich, a Rutgers food science professor who studies the very nature of how food ages. Schaich observes how common foods like tortilla chips and peanut butter go rancid, and believes she’s found processes that cause food to spoil faster than we think. But she struggles to get this important research funded.

She’s not the only one—American food science itself is struggling, and for more reasons than funding alone. We have food science programs, but some of the food scientists that I spoke with find it difficult to attract the funding needed to innovate and come up with novel solutions to food science and nutrition issues through basic research. Others left publicly-funded food science for greener pastures in private industry.