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In celebration of Black History Month, IFT salutes the work and wisdom of five members of our African, African American, Black Resource Group who are making a difference in the science of food across the nation and the globe. Much like the Black scientific pioneers who came before them, these professionals have drawn strength from their heritage to reach the top of their game and empower others. Read on to learn their stories.Larry Keener
A longtime food safety expert, Larry Keener, CFS, PA, is president and CEO of International Product Safety Consultants, based in Seattle. Keener is an IFT Fellow and chair of the Nonthermal Processing Division. He previously served as a member of Feeding Tomorrow’s Board of Trustees.
Proudest career achievement: Keener developed a bi-phasic microbiological media, “Keener’s Sporulation Media,” for use in the production of bacterial spores in the Clostridia spp. He is also proud of the work he’s done to validate Pressure Assisted Thermal Sterilization for use in the production of low-acid foods, resulting in the subsequent change to low-acid canned food regulations.
Thoughts on Black History Month: “Black History Month celebrates what is quintessentially the American history that has seldom been taught to Americans,” Keener says. “It is a time to recall and closely examine both the humble and majestic journeys of Black people across time and place, an opportunity to sing a song of freedom and correct the historical record.”
Advice: “Be true to science,” Keener says, “and don’t be afraid to be amazed at where science might take you.”Edwin Yenbono Allan
Originally from Ghana, Edwin Yenbono Allan is a doctoral student at Montana State University with a focus on food product development and processing in the United States and internationally. He serves as IFT Student Association (IFTSA) VP of Competitions.
Proudest career achievement: Allan has remained true to his African roots. A peanut nutrition bar he developed for smallholder women farmers in Senegal spurred the African Development Bank to invest in and build them a cottage factory.
Thoughts on Black History Month: “Black History Month means celebrating the courage and bravery of forebearers who inspired other Black leaders to fight oppression and gain independence,” Allan says. “Under the leadership of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana was the first African country to obtain independence. While in graduate school in the United States, Nkrumah was inspired to fight for independence by Marcus Garvey and other Black activists. Let us continue to inspire each other.”
Advice: “To go faster you go alone, to go further you go with your community,” Allan says. “Establish connections, especially with other African, African American, and Black food scientists. It will serve you well.”
Emefa Monu, PhD, is a food scientist at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs in Canada. She is a member-at-large of IFT’s Women’s Resource Group and previously served as a member of Feeding Tomorrow’s Board of Trustees.
Proudest career achievement: Monu says she’s most proud of the mentorship she’s provided to Black women pursuing advanced degrees in food science, something she accomplished in her previous role as a professor and advisor in academia and continues as an IFT volunteer.
Thoughts on Black History Month: “Black History Month is a time to not only celebrate the contributions Black people have made to historical achievements in North America but also to reflect on our place in society now and in the future—the good, the bad, and the ugly,” Monu says. As a Black Canadian, Monu says she would especially like to amplify the unique history and viewpoints of others like her.
Advice: “Know your own worth and be proud of your achievements,” Monu says. “There will be those who don’t believe in your credentials, but you earned your degree(s). You earned your position. You earned your promotion. Be proud of it.”
William (Bill) Barrier
William (Bill) Barrier, PhD, has built a strong science of food career advancing product sales, growing bottom-line profit margins, and spearheading operational improvements at several major companies. He is a member of IFT’s Board of Directors.
Proudest career achievement: There are many achievements that sit high on Barrier’s list, including being the only Black person in the food microbiology doctoral program at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and leading the team that developed ice cream company Häagen-Dazs’ first frozen yogurt. He is most proud of the fact that his career has taken him around the globe, allowing him to “work across cultures to make a difference in the science of food.”
Thoughts on Black History Month: Barrier says Black History Month is about “telling the stories of unsung African, African American, and Black heroes to inspire younger generations to embrace all the possibilities and opportunities the world has to offer.”
Advice: Barrier encourages African, African American, and Black food scientists to study the science of food in its entirety and to be fascinated by it. “There are countless focus areas,” he says, “and countless opportunities and connections to discover.”
Darryl Riley is chief sustainability officer at Hostess Brands, LLC, and previously served as a member of Feeding Tomorrow’s Board of Trustees.
Proudest career achievement: “I am a technical professional executive and loving father who has achieved my position and accomplishments because of the support from my wife and our daughters,” Riley says. He is also proud to serve in a new role that Hostess Brands created to expand the company’s capabilities in developing and executing strategies to drive its environmental, social, and governance (ESG) objectives.
Thoughts on Black History Month: Riley learned about Black History Month in a high school class taught by a teacher who wasn’t Black. “It left an impression upon me that Black people didn’t even have a chance to teach about their own history,” Riley says, “and it opened my appetite for reading.” (One of his most cherished books is Before the Mayflower by Lerone Bennett, Jr.) Back then, Black History Month was a time to “read about our painful history of 400 years,” he says. Today, it boils down to what his father used to tell him: “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
Advice: “Let your reach exceed your grasp; take assignments that push you out of your comfort zone,” Riley says. “Most importantly, place your family first. Know that throughout your career, they are the people who help build and shape your emotional intelligence, character, and strength.”
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