We’d Like Some Respect. No, In Fact We Demand It!
During a major holiday season, a local waitress in a busy restaurant gives up time with friends and family serving a lot of customers in a short amount of time.
On that same holiday, a dietitian is working to define tube feedings, and total parenteral orders for the sick and elderly.
Simultaneously, a PhD with a degree in food science works to confirm that a large batch of liquid eggs has been prepared correctly for shipping to a major client so the masses can serve baked goods during their holiday meals.
Sound sexy? Not so much. In a want-based society that culturally minimizes the value of those supporting a need-based product like food. Given the slowing numbers of new students entering into food science, dietetics, and other nutrition related fields a problem is developing.
Not to sound like another shrill voice in the wilderness, but food security world-wide is at risk. Our human population is roughly at 7 billion, and growing at a rate of approx. 75 million people. The multi-faceted problem of feeding a lot of people in a shrinking planet demands the attention of our best and brightest (like it or not!).
It’s a given that a community lasts only as long as the available food and water supply. So why isn’t the foodservice, food science, or dietetics career paths given more respect and appreciation?
I recently sat in a major for-profit company office area waiting for layoff notifications to be deployed. Wondering at that time if I had really made the correct career choice by leaving a consistent and solid career in nutrition in my desire to fully use my graduate education.
Driven for a lot of years to work long hours, and many consecutive days, I had been fueled with a smug attitude that I was working in a need based, non-profit industry. Those I served needed me. As time passed, burnout started to set in. Eventually the lack of respect and appreciation for what I and others were doing started wearing me down further. Eventually, I realized that I was replaceable.
Over time, I made the needed changes to start working in the want based, for-profit industry thinking life would be better. It wasn’t. As I left during one of a series of layoff days, I made a personal list for myself of what I wanted in my next career chapter if and when my job status changed.
Short story is that I am now working in a need based, FOR profit business that I find very fulfilling. Point is, I had to believe in, and respect, my education, experience, and capabilities before I found that opportunity.
Within the food industry itself, automation and pre-packaging has been expanding for years. Dialogue has been growing about certain aspects of foodservice which are to be automated that were traditionally manned by humans.
One prime example are self-service ordering kiosks feeding orders into a system that dispenses prepackaged foods which have been automatically heated. Slap a name brand on the process and call it a restaurant for a brave, new world.
The echo effect is the freeing up of human potential. In order to cope with that change, those people will need to reaffirm their own sense of self-respect, evaluate their own skills and potential, then move on with life.
Someone else’s problem, right?
At the start of this review there are three very different aspects of foodservice were described. All are at risk of being affected by population growth and automation. Concerns arise when those roles are facing a world-wide change without a strong and wise support network.
Starting point though is to make sure that those of us who work in the food service industry drive an individual sense of self-respect and mutual appreciation.
We need to work every day and guide our industry in a proactive, and strategic manner in order to cope with our changing world. No one wants to have to live through a reactionary response to raw material and labor shortages in any aspect of the food science, service, or nutrition sciences. Commonly these shortages are dealt with by rationing. Not something that those of us who live ‘First World’ lives are used to.
Questions Surrounding Next Steps:
How can we further expand our efforts to drive respect and appreciation for the food and nutrition industry in general? Should we be looking to professional groups formed to serve our industry? Or hope for the best with government leadership?
What do you think?
Author: Laura Schaufelberger
Laura has worked 15+ years gaining experience in clinical nutrition and foodservice management field. After transitioning into project and program management, she spent time working in a supply chain environment for a large equipment manufacturer.
Most recently, Laura’s career path has led her to Rembrandt Foods, an egg and egg protein product producer. There, Laura utilizes past nutrition, supply chain, and current program / project management experience gained for her current employer’s thriving future.
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