According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the world will need to produce 70% more food by the year 2050 in order to feed an estimated 9 billion people. The time is now for us to recognize how that will happen and, more importantly, to identify who will lead the charge to make it happen. The answer is future generations of food scientists working in partnership with our entire food science community.
Mentoring the future leaders of food science remains at the forefront of IFT’s goals. Our IFT Student Association (IFTSA), with over 2,300 members, continues to attract the best and brightest young members of our professional, scientific organization. From product development competitions and the college bowl, to research presented at oral and poster sessions, IFTSA members are continuously learning and contributing to our professional IFT community, and to the profession.
Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to work alongside our students as a judge in the first-ever Heart Healthy Product Development Competition at IFT’s Wellness 11 Conference. Students excelled in developing heart-healthy food products low in saturated fat and free of industrial trans fatty acids, while meeting nutritional criteria based on USDA food labeling guidelines.
I have also had the great pleasure of serving for many years as a judge for the National College Bowl Competition, which tests the knowledge of student teams from across the United States in the areas of food science and technology, history of foods and food processing, food law, and general IFT/food-related trivia.
Students are also gaining real-world experience and practical skills through the Product Development Competition and the Developing Solutions for Developing Countries Competition. This year’s Developing Solutions 2011-12 theme focuses on development of a mango-based product that addresses common Kenyan nutrient deficiencies and can be produced rapidly in order to realize the full potential of this crop during its short harvesting season. The real-world exposure and concentration on global food issues within each of these competitions are invaluable.
I recently had the opportunity to travel to China for meetings with the Chinese Institute of Food Science and Technology. While we were there, I was fortunate enough to spend time in Shanghai with about 80 extremely talented food science students who were competing in a product and advertisement development competition. They were truly inspirational. The brief time I spent with those students was a reminder of why I pursued a career in the food industry and why I truly enjoy what I do. It was also a reminder of how important it is to give back to future generations within our profession.
I believe with technology it’s easier today than ever before to make a positive impact in the lives of others. There are even more tools to encourage everyone to follow in our digital footsteps—connecting to others around the globe through IFT’s online community, sharing information via e-mail or through social networking like Facebook, LinkedIn, or even Twitter. Our members share articles and presentations and talk to local schools. We have valuable resources on ift.org to provide the tools you need to be a successful mentor and to make a difference. You are not just helping a few individuals. You are making a global difference in the lives of people worldwide by ensuring a safe and abundant food supply.
The future generations of food scientists are the professionals who, in the years to come, will be at the forefront of decision making relating to food security, food safety, and ensuring that we have enough food to feed billions of people from around the globe. From our student association to our group of new professionals, we have many talented professionals who are up to the challenge. So why not take some time out of our own schedules to pick up the phone, schedule a lunch, mentor young professionals, and introduce them to outstanding networking and career opportunities, or simply talk to them about your own career path.
How did you first learn about food science? Or what advice would you offer students as they make the transition into the working world—whether it’s academia, government, or industry? How can we foster their educational growth and commitment to the field of food science? How can we arm them with the tools they need to succeed as they graduate and venture out into the food industry? Let’s continue to support, nurture, and embrace the important work of these future generations. They will make a lasting impact on the world’s food supply for years to come.
Roger Clemens, Dr.P.H.,
IFT President, 2011–2012
Chief Scientific Officer, Horn Company, La Mirada, Calif.