Chris Downs headshot

Chris Downs

We recently asked some of our 2023 Annual Meeting Scientific Program Advisory Panel (AMSPAP) members, who work with IFT staff to select and curate sessions for the scientific program at IFT FIRST: Annual Event and Expo, why they volunteer with IFT.

Longtime IFT member and IFT Fellow Jacqueline Beckley said volunteering has allowed her to be part of something that’s bigger than herself. She said, “Over the years, I have learned skills and behaviors (while volunteering) that have helped me within my job, so I have actually benefited tremendously from the relationship I have with IFT.”

Seven-year IFT member Michelle Braun said volunteering is as much about the positive experience as it is about the learning and growth that comes with it. “When I attend my volunteer calls and have an exchange with peers, colleagues, or staff, I appreciate the openness of the dialogue and the acceptance and listening we all afford one another. I am always uplifted by the experience and generally leave with a smile on my face,” Braun said.

For 20-plus-year IFT member Nitin Joshi, it’s all about the greater good. “It’s the personal satisfaction of giving back to the scientific community within which I grew up. I’ve learned and gained a lot and now it’s my turn to provide guidance to newer generations of food scientists who will lead the food industry into the future.”

I echo the comments of all three of these dedicated members who have served IFT in numerous volunteer roles over the years, in addition to their recent AMSPAP participation. For me, volunteering is a great opportunity to give back to this profession that has given me many opportunities. But it’s more than that. IFT’s strategy, values, and focus on supporting and innovating in the science of food are closely aligned with what I believe is important for current and future generations. Because of this, I’ve made it a priority to do my part to move us closer to achieving IFT’s vision.

Volunteers are vital to nonprofit organizations around the world, and IFT is no exception. The passion, expertise, and commitment of thousands of science of food professionals each year have enabled IFT to provide valuable programming, insightful publications, a best-in-class annual event and expo, a consistent community, and countless other enriching experiences that ultimately advance our association, our careers, our profession, and the global food system.

"There are dozens of big and small ways for professionals at any stage of their career to contribute time, knowledge, and leadership within IFT."

In addition to AMSPAP, there are dozens of big and small ways for professionals at any stage of their career to contribute time, knowledge, and leadership within IFT and reap the many benefits, which include the following:

  • Creating local and regional events and experiences as an IFT Section volunteer
  • Facilitating opportunities to connect, learn, and share information with people with similar interests or career paths as an IFT Division volunteer
  • Providing supportive spaces and an increased sense of belonging for communities who have traditionally been underrepresented or under supported as an IFT Member Resource Group volunteer
  • Ensuring IFT communicates the most relevant research and science-based information as a member of our Journal of Food Science Editorial Board, Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety Editorial Board, or Food Technology Editorial Advisory Panel
  • Reviewing nominations and helping us identify honorees as a jury member for our IFT Achievement Awards and IFT Fellows designation
  • Giving an hour or two of your time to volunteer in a variety of capacities at IFT FIRST

And we can’t forget our IFT Student Association leaders and volunteers, who work tirelessly to creatively address the needs of their fellow students in the science of food and prepare them for the career path that lies ahead.

On behalf of the IFT Board of Directors, I want to extend a sincere thank you to everyone who has volunteered for one of the above-mentioned opportunities or the many others that are available throughout the year. I also implore you to remember the old adage—it is better to give than to receive—and consider ways you might give some of your time and expertise to IFT. I promise that for every minute you give, you will gain infinitely more from the relationships you build, the accomplishments you can take pride in, and the deeper impact you will make in helping us connect global food system communities to promote and advance the science of food and its application.

About the Author

Chris Downs, PhD, is IFT President, 2022–2023 ([email protected]).
Chris Downs headshot