"It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Those are the words of American author Ursula Le Guin. For me, this past year was definitely about the journey. From Chicago, Seattle, and Sun Valley to South Africa, England, Ireland, and Japan, I’ve had the privilege to travel through the United States and around the globe over the past year representing you, IFT, and our profession at countless scientific and technical meetings, workshops, seminars, and Section meetings. And it’s truly been an incredible journey!
A primary focus was outreach to our Sections to meet dedicated and hardworking IFT members, better understand each Section’s collective goals and ideas about advancing the profession—beginning with maintaining strong local networks, and connecting with IFT as a valuable resource to assist in driving their efforts. I was able to share IFT’s first video in the award-winning Day in the Life of a Food Scientist video series, “A Day in the Life of a NASA Food Scientist.” This video was a wonderful reminder of how far our profession can travel—both around the globe and even into space. IFT worked closely with Disney Consumer Products to share their production, “A Day in the Life of a Disney Food Scientist,” with thousands at the IFT meeting in New Orleans.
Throughout the year, I was pleased to work alongside my colleagues from across the country to help to implement an open membership model for Divisions, resulting in a 52% increase in Division membership. My travels overseas focused primarily on relationship building and exchanging ideas about food science. We strengthened partnerships with organizations including the Chinese Institute of Food Science and Technology and the Latin American and Caribbean Association of Food Science and Technology, and shared perspectives with the Japan, British, and Vancouver, British Columbia Sections.
With science at the forefront of every discussion over the past year, our focus involved strategic outreach efforts to the media—and ultimately to consumers. Examples of this include participating in a Chicago media tour and talking with top tier media outlets including Reuters, Crain’s Chicago Business and the Chicago Tribune where food safety issues such as food product recalls, the Food Safety Modernization Act, produce safety, and communicating food risks to consumers were discussed. An appearance on NPR’s “News Hour” in June to address the E. coli O104:H4 outbreak in Europe was a particular highlight.
One message from the media resonated with me when we heard from Keynote presenter Michael Specter during the Annual Meeting and Food Expo. It is our profession’s responsibility to “make a strong case” about food science to the media and the general public. We are the experts who can counter the many misperceptions about food and the food supply chain, and provide useful and credible information to consumers as they make their food choices.
A highlight of my presidential travel this year was in New Orleans at IFT’s Annual Meeting and Food Expo. Over 15,000 people attended the meeting to participate in our scientific and technical sessions, and walk the world-renowned Expo Floor.
The Beacon Lecturers, Dr. Regina Benjamin, the 18th Surgeon General of the United States, and Dr. Patrick Wall, former Chair of the European Food Safety Agency and Professor in the School of Public Health, University College, Dublin, enhanced an already rich scientific program, and White House Assistant Chef Sam Kass was given a warm welcome by our Student Association at their opening Assembly.
I could not conclude my year as IFT President without running in my 11th consecutive Fun Run and Walk. I was joined by over 570 participants, and the event raised an astounding $87,000 dollars for Feeding Tomorrow student scholarships. And I volunteered alongside friends and colleagues through IFT Cares at the Greater New Orleans and Acadiana (Second Harvest) Food Bank.
I have not been alone throughout my journey. I’ve had the support of my family, friends, and colleagues at Cornell University and throughout IFT. Thanks to Barbara Byrd Keenan for her leadership and strategic insights, and to her talented and dedicated staff for their excellent work. And I have thoroughly enjoyed the friendship of Marianne Gillette, and the advice and counsel she has provided. I wish Roger Clemens a very productive and successful year as IFT President. And to all IFT members, thank you for your continued support of IFT and our profession, and your encouragement along the way on this remarkable journey. It certainly has been an honor and privilege to serve as your president.
Robert B. Gravani,
IFT President, 2010–2011
Professor of Food Science, Cornell University,