Mary K. Schmidl

We live in a materialistic age in which we often hear the question, “What’s in it for me?” This usually means, “What direct material benefit is in it for me?” But even for those who believe that material benefit is the goal, there are other reasons to do good deeds, often the quest for recognition or even fame or glory.

For those of you who are volunteers and devote your time and effort to IFT, the main motivation for doing so is undoubtedly the inner satisfaction of making a worthwhile contribution—of doing the right thing for no other reason than that it is the right thing to do for the profession. Of course, by helping in that way to strengthen IFT, you are contributing toward a stronger, highly regarded food science and technology profession, from which, in the longer term, every member will benefit, often more directly than one would realize.

Foremost among the experiences I had as President Elect of IFT last year was that many members corresponded with me in the development of “Vision 2020,” which became IFT’s Global Strategic Plan. Now as President I continue to receive many messages from members, sometimes expressing agreement, sometimes presenting suggestions, sometimes querying, and sometimes criticizing particular IFT policies or actions (or absence of actions!).

One of the criticisms is that the Global Strategic Plan frequently refers to “science” but not “technology.” That is true, but it certainly does not reflect any intention to ignore food technology or the large number of members who work as food technologists. After all, we are the Institute of Food Technologists, and food science is the one discipline that can be applied only in the food industry (whereas chemistry, for example, can be applied in numerous widely differing industries). Food science and food technology form a continuum, and I can assure members that the Plan merely uses “science” as shorthand for “science and technology.”

All questions and criticisms are welcome and taken into account. However, occasionally messages asking or criticizing whether IFT should be indulging in a particular policy or activity include the phrase, “What’s in it for IFT?” Now, I would be the last to decry the importance of gaining material benefit for IFT. As a former Assistant Treasurer of IFT, I have learned about the vital importance of maintaining the financial viability of the Institute, which includes increasing its membership base. That is why I was insistent that Goal E of the Global Strategic Plan (“IFT will continue to be financially secure and stable”) must be explicitly stated, along with the strategies and tactics to fulfill it, to improve member services and to recruit new members. Having said that, just like individuals, bodies like IFT also have to do the right things because they are the right things to do. Thus, we have to fulfill our responsibility to food science and technology as a major at a university and as a profession, by promoting research and education, by being one of the members’ primary resource for knowledge and professional development (Goal B), and by acting as an advocate for science on food-related issues (Goal C).

Likewise, in the wider global context, we have a responsibility to provide a primary worldwide resource of scientific and professional based food science and technology information (Goal A). Most important, we have to fulfill our global responsibility to make our contribution and play our full part in the global community of food science and technology, the International Union of Food Science & Technology (IUFoST) and to be a supportive collaborator with IFT-like national food science/technology societies in other countries (Goal D).

So there are many important things that IFT has to do because they are the right things to do—and, yes, spend money in doing them. In an age in which the “What’s in it for me?” culture is strongly entrenched and ingrained, it is difficult to break the mold, but the society of an honorable profession like ours stands a better chance of doing so than most. If we pose the “What’s in it . . . ?” kind of question, we should be asking, “What’s in it for food safety and food security worldwide?” “What’s in it to improve public health?” “What’s in it for food science and technology research and education?” and “What’s in it for the global community of food science and technology?”

While we want to recruit on the basis of the added value that membership in IFT provides, and while IFT’s Treasurer and Finance and Executive Committees rightly need to watch the dollars, I would like to see our policies adopted and judged not solely on “What’s in it for IFT?” but also on “Is it the right thing for IFT to do?”

It is my strong belief that doing the right thing for IFT will, in the long run, prove to also be the best thing for IFT to do.

IFT President, 2000–01