Expressing gratitude has become a November tradition. Although experts suggest gratitude should be practiced daily, it is in November that many people take the time to pause and reflect on what they are thankful for.
A growing body of research shows gratitude has a direct impact on a person’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. A culture of gratefulness in the workplace can boost morale, increase productivity, reduce stress, motivate employees, and increase overall job satisfaction. In light of that, I would like to share a few of the things I am grateful for.
First and foremost, I am grateful to be a food scientist. I have had the opportunity to work with many talented and intelligent people over the years to help ensure our food is safe, nutritious, and delicious. From monitoring vitamin and mineral levels in foods early in my career to providing insight into how nutritious foods and ingredients benefit consumers today (and everything in between), it has been an exciting and challenging ride. I am proud to say I am doing my part to help feed a world population that is expected to reach 9 billion in the next 30 years.
I am also beyond grateful for the IFT community. This organization brings together a global community of visionary scientists and technologists who are truly pushing the envelope and revolutionizing the food available around the world. Together we have discussed challenges, shared experiences, and tackled important issues. The diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and skill sets of IFT members have sparked fresh ideas and inspired me to think differently about situations I faced. I know it has made me a better scientist, business leader, and human being.
I am also grateful for all the people— more than 1,200 in total—who take on volunteer roles within IFT. It is through the collective efforts of our volunteers that our mission and strategic promises truly come to life. From students and new professionals to seasoned leaders and retirees, our strong volunteer culture has enabled significant advancements in the science of food. I personally have had the opportunity to volunteer in a number of capacities, starting in the Dixie Section (now Southeast), within the Quality Assurance Division, on strategic initiative teams, as a reviewer and symposia leader for the IFT annual event, on the board of directors, and, of course, this year as president. Each role gave me unique opportunities to meet new people, hear fresh perspectives, and deepen my contribution to the industry. I am certain other volunteers have had similarly impactful experiences. I feel so strongly about the value that I encourage my work team and friends in the industry to broaden their horizons through volunteering with IFT.
I am also grateful to be part of a community that not only creates great-tasting food and works diligently to ensure food safety and security, but also has a significant impact on the health and well-being of people around the globe. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as infectious disease rates have dropped over the last century, chronic, lifestyle-related diseases have been on the rise. About half of all American adults have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor quality eating patterns, physical inactivity, and other lifestyle factors. For example, more than 30 million Americans have some form of diabetes, a serious autoimmune disease that can often be managed through physical activity, diet, and the appropriate use of insulin and other medications to control blood sugar levels. A dear family member of mine has Type 2 diabetes, and I have seen firsthand the impact healthy changes in diet have had in helping them manage the disease.
The intersection of food, physical activity, and health is a place IFT has worked to inform its members and advance research and is yet another thing I am grateful for. Knowing that my fellow food scientists and technologists are constantly innovating to bring new and increasingly diverse foods to our tables is encouraging. Our experts are also proactively serving as an objective voice in public dialogue on food and nutritionrelated issues. While we still lack many of the details on how our eating patterns and lifestyle choices impact the trajectory of chronic disease, we at IFT are actively seeking answers and will continue to promote continued advancement in the science of food.
Over the next few weeks, I encourage you to take a few minutes every morning, over lunch, while commuting, or before bed to think about what you are grateful for. I promise it will make a world of difference in how you experience your day and quite possibly inspire you to achieve even more.