Today started out with a 5K Fun Run & Walk in Burnham Park. The Fun Run raises money for Feeding Tomorrow, an organization that provides scholarships to students so that they can attend IFT. Last year they were able to give out $120,000 in scholarships.
I had to be at the bus by 5:15 AM, which would take me to the park. The race started at 6:00. I am not really a runner. I try to be. I want to be. So impulsively, I signed up for the race yesterday. Therefore, I found myself up at the crack of dawn, running in a park with about 300 other people.
I feel like I did pretty good. I mean, I finished the race. I didn't die of a heart attack and I didn't puke. Score one for me! My time was 36:14 and I placed 229 out of 327.
I made it back to the hotel, cleaned myself up and headed back to McCormick Place for another day of IFT'16. In the morning, I sat in two keynote sessions. The first one was a consumer panel. This is where they had a group of Chicagoland consumers share their opinions about their food philosophies and what they want or don't want in terms of food. This was a very entertaining session. The consumers where a diverse mix of shoppers ranging from the baby boomer who reads every food label, won't buy anything with high fructose corn syrup, and tries to buy organic when available; to the young mom of four, who doesn't have time to read labels and wants the cheapest, fastest product available; to the foodie who likes pretty shiny packaging with inventive, new tasty products. It is so interesting to see the different perspectives on what a person is looking for when they go grocery shopping. I, myself, was closely related to the mom of four who wants convenience, but I also like shiny packaging! What kind of shopper are you?
The second panel was A Sneak Peak at the Food Evolution Documentary. IFT has funded a documentary to be directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy. The documentary is called Food Evolution. The idea is to discuss the misconceptions of science surrounding our food. It covers topics such as GMOs and how social media and advocacy groups can influence consumers. It also addresses the challenges our industry faces as the planet's population grows and our resources become less available. They showed a few clips of the documentary. It looks really good. They are almost done editing it and it should come out later this year.
I made a few more stops on the show floor. The hubster loves Tabasco, so I put in an appearance and got him a tiny little bottle of Tabasco.
In the afternoon, I attended the session The Impact of the International Food Regulations on Global Supply Chain: An Update. Whew! Fun times for me, huh? The first lady who spoke was from Costco and her talk was very interesting. I had no idea all the hoops they have to jump through to sell food in other countries, let alone ours. Each country has different regulations and they have to be aware of how the rules are different for different places. I could hardly understand the second speaker, so I didn't get much out of his talk.
I attended the last key note session and again it focused on how the science community struggles with mass communication, especially in the age of social media. It discussed how many consumers are mistrusting of experts and instead rely on information from friends and like minded individuals on social media. If you haven't noticed, this was a popular theme at this year's IFT. How can scientists do a better job at communicating to the public? Nobody has a really good answer. But in this panel, there were a few good suggestions on how to start the conversation. I wish my colleague Lisa had been at this conference. She handles communication for our organization and so many of these topics discussed pertained to her. I am going to have to talk her into coming next year!
That night, I went out to dinner at Emilio's Tapas. It was not too far from my hotel and had a decent rating on Yelp. It was a quaint little restaurant. I ordered the Gabriela salad which had apples, grapes, pecans, and goat cheese in a vinaigrette. The salad was visually appealing and very tasty with the apples, cheese and nuts; but you couldn't really taste the dressing.
I also ordered a warm tapas, Cazuela de Pollo Salteado. This was chicken, mushrooms, and chorizo in a tomato based sauce. The tapa tasted delicious. However, several times I bit into a piece of chicken and had to spit it out because of a bone or piece of grizzle. That really grossed me out and dampened my enjoyment of the meal. The service was great. I don't' know what it is about Chicago, but the wait staff really takes care of their customers.
I am not really sure what happened to the coloring in these pictures. I don't know if it was the lighting in the restaurant or my phone.
That wraps up day 3.
I don't really have anything exciting to report on day 4. I only was able to attend one session in the morning. I attended Corporate Spending on Food Protection: Without Knowing the Cost, How Can You know the ROI (Return on Investment)? This session covered a survey that was done on food companies in Canada to see if they were tracking the costs associated with food safety training for their employees. Unfortunately, not many companies separate out general training from training that focuses specifically on food safety. I am not really surprised by the survey's findings because I encounter similar situations in my line of work. The third speaker focused on training strategies for different types of situations and she gave me a lot of good ideas. I was really glad I got to attend her talk. I hope to take some of the suggestions she gave and put them to practice in my trainings. Score!
After that I had to head back to the hotel to check out. Instead of flying back home, I have another meeting to attend in Minneapolis, MN tomorrow. Yep, this is a long week for me.
I headed off to the airport and had a very uneventful flight to Minnesota. I am staying at the Sheraton Minneapolis Midtown. It is not in downtown, so not much is within walking distance. I am more in a suburb like area, although there is a little shopping complex that I can walk to for dinner.
My evening consisted of FaceTiming with my family, dinner at the food court area, and writing up this blog post.