As a self-employed consultant, IFT member Ben Marandi, PhD, has built his career around helping food and beverage companies address food safety and regulatory compliance issues. But as the COVID-19 pandemic spread into North America last month, Ben saw his business come to a halt.
“So many projects that were in the pipeline have been cancelled and most of my clients are restructuring,” Ben shared. “Overall, the pandemic has had a negative impact on my business.”
Flexibility, creative thinking, and a willingness to try new things have been essential in keeping things moving. All of Ben’s clients are 100 percent virtual now, so transitioning to Zoom, Skype, and other online platforms was critical to maintain communication after client visits and required meetings were cancelled. He has also been able to shift his focus from smaller companies to medium-sized food manufacturers who have more of a need for his services right now. In addition, he is using this time to strengthen his professional brand.
Like many, Ben said the atmosphere among his clients has run the gamut. The transition to a virtual work environment was not easy at first, but everyone seems to be adapting.
“I have seen the attitudes of some of my clients change over the last few weeks. Once people came to terms with the pandemic lasting longer than a few days or weeks, they began embracing this new way of working,” Ben said. “This pandemic will change the shape of the world and how people interact with each other. Digitization, online platforms, and cloud sharing will become even more important in the coming years.”
Ben noted he has found IFT’s educational resources to be quite useful during this time. He has been doing substantial studying of the impact of COVID-19 on food industry and is preparing a webinar on virus risk management and writing an article on the subject.
Despite all the challenges and stress the pandemic has brought on, Ben has experienced some positives, particularly on the home front. While there has definitely been a mixture of happy and sad moments, Ben said his family is becoming stronger amid the pandemic. The increased time at home has given him a chance to spend more time playing sports with his 11- and 14-year old boys. It has also allowed he and his wife to open up a dialogue about COVID-19 so his children would understand the situation without hearing and potentially misconstruing information from friends and on social media.
As we face the days to come, Ben recommends trying to stay fit with easy-to-moderate physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet full of vitamins and minerals from natural sources, and avoiding things that may hurt your vital organs and weaken your immune system. He also shared these words of wisdom.
“Every one of us has been affected in some way by this pandemic so people need to set aside selfishness, increase understanding, and take care of our families emotionally as well as financially now more than ever.”
Are you a Food System Hero? Share your story on social media with the hashtag #FoodHeroes today!