As the calendar flips to September, we all prepare for change. September brings back-to-school, the onset of autumn or spring, depending on your location on the globe, and, at IFT, the annual transition of our leadership. I have spent the last year as president-elect of IFT, and three years before that as a member of the IFT Board of Directors, preparing for the exciting year that lies ahead, leading this global institute that has meant so much to me and my career.
Since its founding in 1939, IFT has been led by presidents selected by their peers to shepherd the institute into the future, carry forward its mission, and chair the board of directors that governs what is now a global movement to create a safer, more sustainable, more nutritious food supply for everyone. It is my honor and privilege to carry on that tradition, and I thank you for the opportunity to do so.
I step into this role in what continue to be uncertain times. The pandemic continues to dominate the headlines, and we continue to adapt to life in a constant state of change. At IFT, the pandemic stretched us in ways that, while at first uncomfortable, have represented opportunities to try new things and connect in new ways. Like the scientists and innovators we serve, we’re experimenting in many ways and are eager to bring you new opportunities to engage, learn, and connect in the year ahead.
Behind the scenes, our board of directors and staff work to focus IFT’s energy and resources in ways that change with our profession and are anchored in a genuine understanding of our members’ needs and the jobs they need to get done. The pace of change in the food industry, education, and regulation has meant we must innovate just as fast as you do.
One of our key accomplishments in the last year was the revitalization of our strategic plan. Originally developed in 2014, IFT’s strategic plan provides a roadmap for the organization to move toward our vison of a world where science and innovation are universally accepted as essential to a safe, nutritious, and sustainable food supply for all. While we reviewed the plan and monitored progress annually, we had reached a point where we needed to revisit our strategy and ensure we are delivering value and meeting the evolving needs of our members and the broader science of food community.
We had hoped to complete this work a year ago, but the pandemic forced us to pause and shift our focus to what was happening in the present. We were able to get this important work back on track this year and are thrilled to report the IFT Board of Directors approved the plan in August. While the details of a strategic plan are less important than its outcomes, I’ll be excited to share with you the highlights throughout the year, and how this plan creates new points of engagement that will help advance your work and your career.
I am also pleased to report the success of IFT’s reimagined annual event and expo experience, FIRST, which stands for Food Improved by Research, Science, and Technology. Among the highlights were an inspiring keynote presentation from former United Nations Ambassador Ertharin Cousin and a thought-provoking panel on opportunities to transform our food system. There were several other panel discussions and live conversation sessions centered around important topics, including health and nutrition, supply chain transformation, food safety, and consumer insights and education. There were also hundreds of on-demand scientific sessions, research poster presentations, and featured suppliers in our Supplier Suites. And for those of you who registered (or still want to), this content is available online for the remainder of the year. An exciting benefit of virtual!
Although it seems like we just wrapped up our virtual FIRST event, planning is already underway for FIRST in 2022. We are currently planning to bring the best of our in-person event and expo back to Chicago July 10–13, 2022, while also building on the success of our virtual events to bring the best of FIRST to those who can’t attend in person. The health and safety of our members and broader community has been, and will continue to be, our top priority, but it is our sincere hope to meet you all again in person next July.
From now until then, I look forward to the conversations we can have during my time as president of IFT and hope to hear your ideas and feedback as we journey onward.