Sheri Schellhaass

As a result of the recent downturn in the financial markets, many of us have felt a sizable decrease in our financial security. In tough economic times such as these, it is common for charitable donations to decline. But we must remember that many college students are under extreme financial pressure. The cost of attending college has increased by as much as 12% in the last four years. As a consequence, at least half of all college students receive no financial assistance other than student loans. So by the time they complete their undergraduate degrees, they are already in debt.

When I went to college, I took out loans; however, the interest on my student loans was low, and it did not begin accruing until after I had finished school. Today, the interest on student loans begins accruing immediately from the day of disbursement, which results in the accumulation of considerable debt by the time students finish graduate school. Moreover, as many desperate parents use credit cards with high interest rates to pay for tuition and other expenses—including mortgages against devalued homes—the American dream of sending their children to college devolves into a nightmare. How can the minds of the best and brightest soar to new heights of cutting-edge science and research if they are weighed down with excessive debt?

Fortunately, there is a community of donors dedicated to connecting people, resources, and information. Established in 1985 to advance the quality of food science and technology, the IFT Foundation recognizes the financial burden on college students and the effect it has on future scientists and technologists in the food industry. The IFT Foundation raises funds to provide, among other things, scholarships to undergraduate students and fellowships to graduate students to attract and retain bright minds that will undoubtedly enhance the food science and technology professions.

Through creative and strategic endeavors, the IFT Foundation has provided scholarships to students enrolled in IFT-approved food science and technology programs. This year, the IFT Student Association/IFT Foundation Fun Run in New Orleans raised more than $51,000 for scholarships. In addition, the foundation held its second annual "A Taste for Science" reception at the Food Expo. Several companies participated, and a portion of the cash-bar proceeds directly benefited the IFT Foundation. Also, various IFT sections host activities aimed at raising money for foundation scholarships, such as the IFT Minnesota Section’s silent auction in 2006. Thanks to these and other foundation efforts, 75 undergraduate scholarships and 39 graduate fellowships are available. Since its inception, the IFT Foundation has awarded 3,000 scholarships. But our society can do more.

While each of us excels at our profession, we alone cannot fulfill the mission to advance the science of food and ensure a safe and abundant food supply. We need reinforcements in the form of bright individuals who plan to focus on food science and technology during their post-secondary education. Show your dedication to the future of food science and technology by giving back: Become an IFT Foundation donor. There are several ways to make contributions to IFT Foundation scholarships. Make a charitable cash donation to the foundation; if possible, get your employer to match your contribution; alternatively, give a non-cash gift such as stocks and bonds; serve as an IFT Foundation ambassador within your IFT section or on your job; volunteer for the foundation’s fundraising team; or consider including the foundation in your estate planning.

You may have noticed profiles of scholarship recipients in the electronic newsletter ExpressConnect. Each month, an individual expresses his or her gratitude for IFT Foundation scholarships and exemplifies why investing in the future generation of food science professionals is a worthy cause. Many of us know first-hand that scholarships enrich the lives of students and help them prepare for greatness. Consider making a donation to help the next generation of food scientists and technologists. It is only with the addition of future generations that we can continue our mission to advance the science of food.

"To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world" … please choose to be the world for a food science student and donate to the IFT scholarship fund.

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