As my time as president of IFT draws to a close, I’m reflective about the things we’ve accomplished and the things we’ve put in motion to ensure our scientific institute continues to thrive in pursuit of its mission. I’ve used this column to share my thoughts and observations on the human experience that goes hand-in-hand with carrying out science. Scientists are, after all, people.
I’ve talked before about belongingness, collegiality, validation, advocacy, and community. Insomuch as we are connected by science, we are also connected by our desire to take pride in our work, to make meaningful contributions in our communities and the world, and to achieve our personal and professional goals. And though we speak mostly of what we have in common, we must not forget to also celebrate that which makes each of us unique.
When I think about seeing the world through the lens of a food science professional, I think about how each of us sees the world—and our role in the science of food—through a unique lens. I think about how valuable this diverse perspective truly is to advance the IFT mission to enable a safe, nutritious, and sustainable food supply for all. The work we do at IFT is made more powerful if we’re fostering a community that represents a global, inclusive view so we can collaborate, learn, and grow—together. We must embrace a steadfast commitment to realizing a world where diversity and inclusion are universally valued as essential to advancing the science of food. If our aim is to transform scientific knowledge into innovative solutions that benefit people around the world, we must invite and welcome all—all views, voices, and experiences—and recognize them as critical to our mission—even if they are different from our own.
With this powerful aspiration in mind, I want to share a bit more about an initiative that is close to my heart. In November 2016, IFT appointed a task force to develop and support concepts, policies, and programming to create a highly diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment among the IFT community. Since then, we’ve accomplished a lot. The IFT Diversity & Inclusion initiative is about to become a tangible and actionable part of our promise to the food science community, our members, volunteers, and partners. A favorite quote of mine is from Vernā Myers, who eloquently distinguishes the meanings of diversity and inclusion: “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”
As a community of food science professionals, we seek to be understood, accepted, and viewed as valuable to a bigger picture. A greater good. But being understood starts with understanding. This isn’t just a play on words—no, this thinking has warranted an opportunity to ask ourselves: does our organization give voice and space to all professionals in the science of food? And, even more so, do our members believe their voices can be heard and that they are fully embraced members of our community?
If we want to better serve our mission and our members, we need to make sure we are inclusive, welcoming, and representative of everyone in our community. By making sure our practices and systems encourage diversity and inclusiveness, we can be a more effective, more powerful IFT. We see this effort as a critical step in ensuring the future and long-term health of both our organization and our profession.
With a roadmap in hand, and concrete goals in mind, we are motivated and eager to ensure that IFT is a truly diverse and inclusive organization. We are committed to leveraging our collective strengths and varied perspectives to ensuring equitable access and support for individuals to thrive.
As we champion our commitment to diversity and inclusion, I ask all of you to join in. You may know that membership is what enables IFT to contribute so significantly to the advancement of our profession. All of us feel compelled to be heard and to contribute to the advancement of food science in whatever way fits. So, I ask you to help us see the world through your lens. The sustainability of our global food infrastructure demands profound progress from all sides and all interests.
IFT is so much more than an annual event, a magazine, a section. IFT is a community. A community made up of members from over 100 countries. And, beyond members, a community of visitors and participants in IFT’s events and programs. As leaders in that community, we each must embrace our individual and collective responsibility to enable and lead on matters of diversity, inclusion, and equity. It’s a promise we’re making. And through this lens, we see unlimited possibilities to collaborate, solve problems, and innovate; to do meaningful work; and to collectively accomplish our mission. Let’s dance together and feed the world.
Cindy Stewart, PhD, CFS
IFT President, 2017–2018
Global Cultures and Food Protection Technology & Innovation Leader, DuPont Nutrition & Health, Wilmington, Del.