IFT Members Show They Care
by Mary Ellen Kuhn
posted on June 7, 2009
IFT members from across the country took time out to lend a hand in year two of the IFT Cares initiative, which got under way on Saturday, June 6, as two groups of volunteers traveled to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, where they spent several hours packing donated food. The volunteers packed 1,260 boxes in morning and afternoon sessions.
IFT Cares, which made its debut last year at the Annual Meeting & Food Expo® in New Orleans, La., is a philanthropic program in which IFT partners with the national organization Feeding America (formerly known as America’s Second Harvest) and its affiliates in Annual Meeting & Food Expo destinations.
Many of this year’s IFT Cares participants, like Professional Member Faye Dong (photo, left), Professor and Department Head of the University of Illinois food science program, were reprising volunteer roles begun last year in New Orleans.
“It’s an opportunity to try and help in a small way,” said Dong. “Since we’re in the food business, it makes a lot of sense.”
Professional Member Julie Ruder, Quality Assurance Manager at Bay Valley Foods, Portland, Ore., was back for a second year, as well.
Last year’s program drew many volunteers eager to help the New Orleans community still struggling to recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, which hit that city not long after the 2005 Annual Meeting & Food Expo there.
This year, the national economic crisis has increased the need among food bank clients in Orange County. The number of clients served has climbed by 32% in recent months, according to food bank spokeswoman Lorina Smith.
“It’s a completely different set of circumstances—we’re going from a natural disaster to a manmade financial disaster—but the need is still there,” Ruder observed.
Professional Member Jenny Scott, Vice President of Food Safety Programs for the Grocery Manufacturers Association in Washington, D.C., likes the opportunity that IFT Cares provides to get up close to a food bank operation.
“I’ve contributed to food banks for years,” she said, adding that volunteering in such a setting was something she’d always wanted to do. “It’s an opportunity to get an inside view of how things go on.”
IFT Student Association President-Elect Kelsey Ryan, who took part in the Saturday morning volunteer event, said she was glad to be able to spend part of her time at the Annual Meeting and Food Expo giving back to the local community while also interacting with other IFT members. “It’s a fun way to meet IFT members I wouldn’t normally meet,” she said.
Dong observed that she’d like to see the program expanded in a way that encouraged more student member participation.
Saturday morning volunteer Esther Bushway, wife of Professional Member Alfred Bushway, Professor of Food Science at the University of Maine, said she was inspired to sign up for the IFT Cares program in Anaheim after participating last year in New Orleans. Already active as a volunteer in her community, Bushway said that her experiences with IFT Cares in New Orleans opened her eyes to the extent of the need among food bank patrons.
Ruder had this to say about the volunteer experience: “Everybody who can do it should do it.”