And the Winner Is…

Institute of Food Technologists receives 2020 Welcoming Environment® Organizational Award

By the <i>FORUM</i> magazine editors

IFT staff poses for a virtual photo.
IFT staff poses for a virtual photo.

The Welcoming Environment® Organizational Award is awarded to an association that has demonstrated exemplary outcomes in providing an inclusive and welcoming environment and culture. This year’s winner is the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).

“Diversity, equity and inclusion has become central to all we do,” says IFT CEO Christie Tarantino-Dean, FASAE, CAE. “Our core value of community really speaks to our organizational culture, and appreciating and acknowledging our differences is central to our efforts.”

IFT’s application stood out because the organization has created a thorough program to support its more than 80 employees. IFT has a dedicated staff person to lead these efforts and integrates the tenets of a Welcoming Environment into employee recruiting, retention and training programs, as well as performance reviews. The organization also promotes a Welcoming Environment in daily communications by encouraging staff to include gender pronouns in email signatures and sharing diversity and inclusion reflections at internal meetings.

IFT’s staff has embraced these efforts and worked to weave them into all aspects of the association, including the group’s strategic plan and annual meeting. IFT’s president and staff acted upon a member suggestion to organize a LGBTQ+ reception at the annual meeting. In addition, meeting attendees were given the option of gender-neutral bathrooms and also invited to choose a word from a button wall featuring their commitment to diversity. Member feedback has been positive around these changes. In fact, one member offered that being misgendered is a reoccurring event, and the gender-neutral bathrooms allowed for less anxiety and a stronger sense of self as an attendee.

Employee engagement is another way that IFT fosters a Welcoming Environment. They provide diversity training for their leadership team and have internal meeting guidelines that include tips on how to be inclusive and ensure each person can have their voice heard.

When asked what’s next for IFT’s Welcoming Environment initiatives, Tarantino-Dean pointed to the recent resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd’s death. “We have focused lately on opportunities to address our own feelings and emotions around social injustice through restorative circles facilitated by our senior manager of diversity, equity and inclusion,” she says. These circles were meant to be “safe spaces” for staff to share how they were feeling during this time. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was blown away with the honesty and humility of my colleagues,” says Tarantino-Dean. “I am fortunate to work with a team that wants to do their part to make the world a better, more inclusive and equitable place.”

Congratulations to IFT for creating a Welcoming Environment and being this year’s honoree. 

Join us in recognizing IFT and 2020’s other award winners at this year’s Virtual Honors Gala on Dec. 14. Visit for more information and to purchase tickets.

Written by FORUM Magazine editors.

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