Vickie Kloeris

It’s hard to imagine ending my year as IFT president on a higher note than IFT FIRST: Annual Event and Expo. From the moment I set foot in McCormick Place in Chicago last month, the anticipation was palpable. It was an IFT homecoming beyond our wildest expectations and an incredible hello and goodbye for me as IFT president.

IFT FIRST was so much more than a return to the traditional IFT in-person event and expo. It certainly incorporated elements that our community expects, but it also transformed several of those elements, such as the multi-session conversations about critical issues replacing the traditional technical presentation format. This year represented our first truly hybrid event experience, providing an avenue for our global community to participate and engage from afar. The “Live from IFT FIRST” anchor desk brought Chicago to online attendees in a new and exciting way. A variety of sessions were live-streamed in 25 different languages and rebroadcast for our Asia Pacific participants, creating an accessible experience for anyone, anywhere.

"IFT FIRST was a homecoming beyond our wildest expectations and an incredible hello and goodbye for me as IFT president."

Every person involved in planning the event, from the IFT staff team to the hundreds of volunteers, truly embraced the idea of connect, learn, and innovate in all aspects of IFT FIRST. It was incredible to see months of planning and ideating come together in such a strong and meaningful way. I was also delighted by the global representation, with attendees from more than 70 coutries around the world.

Here are a few of the IFT FIRST highlights from my perspective:

  • Day One’s Oxford-style debate on the pros and cons of processed food
  • A full lineup of content about the intersection of science and business at the new Business FIRST stage
  • Pulling up a chair at the IFT “campsite” for some great conversation at the Fireside Chats
  • Our largest Startup Pavilion to date, with 48 entrepreneurs showcasing their innovations
  • Seeing the wide array of IFT member benefits brought to life at IFT Central in Destination IFT, where new membership options and benefits were showcased
  • The first Women’s Power Hour, which was attended by more than 100 women in the science of food
  • Celebrating with our student leaders and competition winners at the IFTSA Closing Ceremonies
  • Witnessing innovation in action at the IFT Innovation Lab
  • And, of course, with my career at NASA, the NASA R&D panel featuring my dear friends IFT Past President Michele Perchonok and former astronaut Dr. Scott Parazynski was a personal highlight.

We celebrated our 2020, 2021, and 2022 Achievement Award recipients and our 2020 and 2021 IFT Fellows. Although the decision not to name a 2022 Class of Fellows and present three of our awards this year was neither easy nor popular, the event gave us the opportunity to continue conversations about how we can utilize the Awards and Fellows Task Force to design an awards and recognition program that is more representative and more inclusive of the entire science of food community.

While returning to an in-person event was the highlight of the year for me, there were other accomplishments that stood out. Food Technology magazine celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, and with this major milestone, the publication launched a redesigned and reinvented format in January. This new format has already been an award winner.

Our 47 IFT Sections continued to play an important role within our community. This year, we were thrilled to reestablish the Mexico Section of IFT. The energy and enthusiasm of the Mexico Section’s leadership is contagious.

The global food system has faced its share of challenges in the past 12 months—from the ongoing effects of the pandemic and war in Ukraine to the increasing impact of climate change on food safety and security. It has been a privilege to serve as president of this tremendous association. I look forward to working with incoming IFT President Chris Downs to continue bringing our community together to address these global issues through the innovative application of the science of food.

About the Author

Vickie Kloeris, MS, CFS is IFT President, 2021–2022 ([email protected]).