Sheri Schellhaass

What would happen if societies did not evolve? The human lifespan would be sharply reduced without health care advances improving the ability to detect, treat, and cure diseases. Without modern water and sanitation systems, quenching one’s thirst or taking a warm bath would take hours instead of minutes. And as food scientists, we would not be able to make great strides in our mission to ensure a safe and abundant food supply contributing to healthier people everywhere.

Nearly four years ago, a task force was convened to guide the process for updating IFT’s pre-existing strategy. After extensive research and assessment, the Task Force on Strategic Development determined that for IFT to thrive and continue its success, a more focused strategic plan tied to annual operating goals would be necessary. The task force determined that IFT’s volunteer resources and structural work groups would need to be based not only on the work of the organization but also on annual needs and priorities. Replacing the former standing committee structure with volunteer workgroups that are task-driven and outcome-oriented is an execution of this vision.

This exciting, new operating plan relies on an ongoing process of dialogue and discovery to ensure that volunteer workgroups are convened when a meaningful initiative arises and dissolved when associated tasks are completed. The four roles of the current strategic plan facilitate this direction. The first role is serving as a steward for the profession and its community. We want to elevate the prominence and relevancy of food science and technology. Newly created workgroups such as the Certification Feasibility Advisory Panel, the Food Science Ambassadors Task Force, and the Public Policy and Regulatory Outreach Advisory Panel are essential for forming the meaningful collaborations necessary to fulfill this role.

The second role of serving as a research champion and innovation catalyst calls on us to be knowledgeable of emerging trends in food science and to foster new ideas in food technology. We must continue to create a community that explores scientific frontiers and discovers innovative food-related applications.

In addition, we want to be integral in defining the food-health continuum by being one of the first to tackle critical food science issues. Workgroups such as the Current and Emerging Science Issues Expert Advisory Panel and the Annual Meeting Scientific Program Advisory Panel are vital for identifying trends in food science, consumer demand, and the global food supply.

Third, we want to serve as influential advocates within a trusted spokes-organization. This requires us to engage in advocacy and communication efforts that increase understanding of our profession. We need to reach out to other professional organizations to ensure that more food policies and decisions are science-based. The Public Policy and Regulatory Outreach Advisory Panel will shore up our efforts in this area.

And for the fourth role, we want to work to increase IFT’s status as a global citizen and partner by being proactive: We should be actively supporting programs to ensure a safe and abundant global food supply. We can accomplish this by cultivating relationships with international colleagues to develop global food policies and programs. The Global Strategy Advisory Panel and the Global Regulations and Policy Task Force will be fundamental in managing this goal.

Providing members with relevant and timely volunteer opportunities ensures that volunteer involvement and participation will continue to be vigorous and active. These workgroups—an evolving combination of boards, task forces, and advisory panels—will result in more efficiency and efficacy in achieving IFT’s strategic goals. In addition, the workgroups will offer members more flexible, relevant, and timely opportunities to volunteer.

While I am sure that many of us have enjoyed our volunteer experiences with IFT up to now, I am even more certain that our new infrastructure will provide even more members with similarly rich and rewarding opportunities. We will no longer be limited by the numbers and terms prescribed for standing committees, which means we can foster more collaboration and participation.

We now have more than 300 members volunteering to help achieve our mission and this year’s annual operating goals. The response to our online request last July was unbelievable: More than 100 volunteered within the first 12 hours. Congratulations! We have evolved into a community of food science leaders without boundaries, and in this format, our ability to advance the science of food is limitless.

by Sheri Schellhaass,
IFT President, 2008–09
Vice President of Research and Development, General Mills, Minneapolis, Minn.
[email protected]