It is my belief that food science and technology is the world’s oldest scientific discipline. People first learned how to grow and harvest food, then how to transform, preserve, and store it safely. Thus, food science and technology traces its roots to antiquity, and it is likely the mother of all sciences. In turn, IFT’s mission is “to advance the science of food.”
As the United States-based scientific society for food science and technology, and through its membership in the International Union of Food Science and Technology, IFT is working tirelessly for a safe and abundant food supply for healthier people everywhere in the world. I do not know of a more noble cause, and I could not be more proud than to be a member of a profession whose goal is to feed the world through science and technology.
IFT has a rich history of providing a forum for like-minded professionals to network, learn, and contribute to the global advancement of food science. That is the basis of the fourth goal within IFT’s strategic plan, “To be the Steward for the Profession and its Community.” IFT is dedicated to providing learning, networking, and leadership development experiences to enable food science and technology professionals to grow and develop as leaders. IFT will continue to arm our leaders with the tools to address significant societal issues such as hunger, malnutrition, food safety, and sustainability.
IFT’s recent Strategic Plan outlines four areas of focus within the fourth goal. In the first area, IFT will use innovative approaches to create programs and services to ensure that food science and technology professionals can function effectively in an increasingly interconnected global environment. To efficiently and accurately identify the professional needs of our members, IFT worked with Kerr & Downs Research last year to produce the Membership Market Research Initiative, a research study and report being used to shape upcoming plans and programs for IFT. Results of the study were used in October 2007 when volunteer leaders and staff participated in an informative workshop utilizing data from this initiative.
IFT offers a wide array of educational programming to support our members such as Webcasts on Healthy Aging and Foods, Marketing Products to Children, Probiotics, and more. In addition, nearly 500 attendees took advantage of Pre-Annual Meeting short courses in 2007 to learn about topics ranging from Flavor Interactions in Foods to Food Packaging to Food Science for the Non-Food Scientist. Members also participated in discussions during the annual Global Food Safety & Quality Conference and the International Food Nanoscience Conference.
Within our second area of focus, IFT has worked to enhance member engagement to build a strong sense of community and encourage meaningful collaborations among food professionals. Last March, about 200 IFT volunteer leaders gathered in Chicago to participate in IFT’s first Strategic Leadership Forum. The forum provided IFT members with the opportunity to engage in strategic discussions and leadership development activities designed to help shape IFT’s future and invest in IFT’s volunteer leaders. The 2007 IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo attracted over 23,000 food professionals from 85 countries. A new conference designed for our members this February is the inaugural Food Technology Presents Conference: Developing and Marketing Products for Consumer Health & Wellness. Eighteen one-hour breakout sessions will be offered in three tracks: Product Development; Marketing & Packaging; and Food Safety & Regulations (see p. 44).
For our third area of focus, IFT is determined to elevate food science and technology as a desirable academic degree and career path. We will continue to explore ways to attract the best and brightest minds to our dynamic and rewarding profession. Every IFT member is an ambassador for our profession and the initial point of contact for promising students. Your willingness to seek out and engage our young scholars will pay future dividends.
IFT currently tracks the continued success of our partnership with the IFT Foundation and Discovery Education by monitoring changes in food science program applications and enrollment and changes in the number of IFT scholarship applications. Poised to support our Discovery Education and career guidance activities are the nearly 350 IFT members in 39 states and over 20 countries or territories that have registered for the Food Science Ambassador Program.
Finally, IFT is focusing efforts on fostering collaboration with the food industry, academic institutions, and regulatory agencies to ensure graduates meet current and future employer expectations.
by John D. Floros,
2007–08 • Professor and Head, Food Science Dept., The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa.