Two weeks ago I attended the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, referred to in the biz as “FNCE”. This annual gathering of registered dietitians, dietetic technicians, and other food and nutrition professionals brought 10,000 of us to the City of Brotherly Love for a long weekend of learning, networking, and for me, personal reflection.
Each year, sponsors of the event include the biggest Big Food companies, and this causes a bit of a stir in the blogosphere and beyond. Unsurprisingly, many nutrition and food policy advocates are concerned about the influence of these sponsors on the Academy and its members. You can read excellent examples of the interesting (and biting!) commentary here and here. I agree that it’s troubling to see prominent displays by Coca Cola, McDonalds, and Monsanto in the Expo hall. Even more troubling is the sponsorship of some of the educational sessions (like a session on food intolerances that ended up being a dairy industry sponsored milk fest). I hope that the Academy gets the message that its members don’t want to be entangled with Big Food because this threatens the credibility of RDs everywhere.
Luckily, I’m savvy enough to avoid the potential pitfalls of FNCE. I ignored the junk vendors (no McDonalds “oatmeal” samples for me, thank you!). I didn’t go to many sponsored talks. I maintained a healthy skepticism and attention to whether information was being taught or sold.
Overall, for me it was just great to see old friends and to be in the midst of many other like-minded nutritionistas. And it was a much needed infusion of nutrition inspiration for my professional life which, as many of you know, is nutrition-free from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday.
In closing, I’d like to share my two takeaways from the conference:
- I must get more involved with hunger and food insecurity. The issue of hunger has always resonated deep down in my food-loving soul. The idea of a mother not having enough food for her children or an elderly person going hungry all alone…well, I can’t even type it without tears starting to flow. Two excellent educational sessions that I attended on the topic have catapulted this issue back into my immediate consciousness and have inspired me to put my skills and passion toward the issue of food insecurity in my community. I have a call in to the Pleasantville Interfaith Food Pantry already to see how I can get involved. Stay tuned for more on this.
- I have to get back to blogging! A session led by RD bloggers extraordinaire Toby Amidor and Dana White encouraged me to get back to it! I love to write, I love to translate my nutrition expertise into practical info and tips to help others. Plus, you never know where a good blog can lead in a career these days. So, I shall write. The floodgates have re-opened. Consider yourselves warned!
Until the next time, fair readers.