FNCE® 2020 Opening Session Remarks

Below are the prepared remarks by Academy President Linda T. Farr, RDN, CSOWM, LD, FAND, October 18 at the Opening Session of the 2020 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo virtual event.

Good morning Academy members, colleagues, students, speakers, exhibitors and guests! A warm welcome to all of you!

The pandemic has changed our landscape and even though we can’t gather in person, we are coming together virtually now. I can feel the can-do spirit throughout our organization and our profession, and I know that this FNCE® will strengthen and empower us. I believe this will be a truly valuable experience for us, and one we will talk about for years to come.

We are embarking on a very special Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo. As usual, we will be innovating, educating and celebrating your accomplishments and your spirit as nutrition and dietetics practitioners all around the world. But, this year, it will be extraordinary.

I am so proud to report to you that registration has been phenomenal! We have more than 10,000 registrants for this virtual meeting, representing 56 countries and 8 territories throughout the world. Welcome all! We are truly a global profession and this is so fantastic!

Ours is an evidence-based profession, centered around science and the passion we all have to serve. And as such, the Academy has always been unwavering in our commitment to confront the world’s challenges. In wartime, in famine, pandemics and turbulent political times, we come together to inspire change.

For decades, we have led the way in preparing for a rapidly changing world, taking calculated risks and being innovative. That moment has arrived again and, as always, we are facing it with grace and professionalism together.

In recent months, all Americans have been grappling with systemic racism in society, and like most allied health professions, the nutrition and dietetics profession is no exception.

It is our responsibility to courageously recognize our shortcomings with honesty, transparency and humility and move forward boldly with the necessary changes.

The Diversity and Inclusion committee is taking the lead in our commitment to create action plans that stimulate real, ongoing, wide-reaching organizational strategies that advance inclusion, diversity, equity and access.

We are requesting that all members ask questions, hold discussions and value diverse viewpoints in order to embrace and encourage unity. This will empower us to grow as individuals, as a profession and as an organization.

I know we all share a commitment to address these vital issues facing not only the Academy but our entire nation and world.

The Academy proudly recognizes how well you have stepped up and adapted to our current environment. Thank you to all of our volunteers and members at every level throughout our organization. I am so humbled and proud to serve alongside you as your president. And, now it's my honor to share some of their stories with you today.

Our colleagues are so amazing! When I think about the life-altering impact of all that we do as a profession, I am deeply moved and totally inspired. We have the power to change the world.

At this time in history, the opportunities we have to affect the major health issues facing our world, and demonstrate our value and life-saving services as a profession, are enormous! The climate crisis, ensuring equitable access to health care and mental health services, combating pseudoscience and misinformation, capitalizing on new technologies and adequately feeding all populations, to only name a few.

And our Academy is here to support you in all of these efforts and more.

When members ask me how to become involved in our organization, I say, take the first step and volunteer. It's a two-way street. Both you and the Academy will benefit in so many ways. Every member has unique gifts and perspectives to offer, and an important role to play in our future.

So, I urge you to get involved. Think and act boldly, identify and tackle challenges. Be change makers and take actions that will shine a light on our amazing profession.

My love for the profession began early. For 24 years, my mother was the food service director and clinical dietitian for Children's Hospital at the University of Iowa. In the summers, I worked in her kitchen. When my father became ill with cancer and my mother resigned in order to stay home and care for him, I, as a new registered dietitian, was honored to take over her department.

Just like me, all of you continue to write your story. None of our stories are without inspirational strength in the face of challenges, unselfish acts of bravery, cohesive teamwork, leadership and the ability to innovate and adapt. Just like many that came before us, we must be resilient.

No group, no profession, is more relevant or more important to the health of our planet. Our time is now to speak with one powerful voice as we help build a world where all people thrive through the transformative power of food and nutrition.

To our amazing students: I will ensure that the Academy opens doors for you that will provide every student, every opportunity to grow, to innovate and to shape the world. I want you to be competent and competitive when you complete your training. Ours is one of the noblest professions in the world. You hold the key to quality of life, healthier families, lower health care costs and a safe and sustainable food system. You are the future.

I would now like to take a moment to thank those individuals and groups who have helped me on my journey in this profession. Each of you have my deepest respect and gratitude. I would like to thank my parents for giving me the opportunity to experience life in a way that helped me become a confident woman, who stands up for what is right. One who sees opportunities when the answer is no, and who believes that in giving back, you receive more than you ever gave. To those of you I volunteered and worked with, who spoke up, asked hard questions and took a chance by sticking your neck out, you have influenced me greatly.

My husband Jon is here today and I would like for you to meet him! He has been the wind beneath my wings and my greatest confidant and champion. I simply can't imagine doing all that I do, especially this year, without him.

Jon was a hospital administrator and already had very high regard for RDNs before I met him. He taught me to play golf and in return I taught him to swing dance, because I had been a competitive West coast swing and country and western swing dancer for several years.

Jon and I are do-it-yourselfers and our biggest project was building our own Cozy Mark IV airplane, over a seven-year period. We flew it for about 10 years all around the country.

To my dear Texas Academy colleagues who made volunteering so much fun and so very fulfilling — thank you for your belief in me and your encouragement.

And to my House of Delegates colleagues — you truly have been a family to me. I credit our work together over 12 years, for opening my eyes to our worldwide network of NDTRs and RDNs — with similar professional goals, challenges and passions. I wouldn't be the leader I am today without your mentoring and friendships.

Our destiny as a profession will be determined by those who have the courage to act, stay strong and persevere.

More than anything, I hope you will leave FNCE® 2020 with:

  • A renewed respect for our nutrition and dietetics colleagues,
  • An appreciation for all the benefits of Academy membership,
  • A reignited passion for your food and nutrition community,
  • And, especially now, optimism and confidence in each other and the work we are doing to transform the next century of nutrition and dietetics practitioners and position, you as the food and nutrition leaders on a global scale.

In tough times, we keep going. We push through. We educate. We inform and we face challenges head on. We are needed now, more than ever.

The Academy's legacy is strong. It was built by tenacious women who did not even have the right to vote. We have a rich history. Our profession goes well beyond a building or one meeting place or an era or a set of questions or problems that we may encounter. The actions we take today will directly shape, influence and generate the possibilities of tomorrow.

Our strength is each other, and our profession is in our capable hands. We stand on the shoulders of giants.

Thank you very much!