FNCE® 2021 Opening Session Remarks

Below are the prepared remarks by Academy President Kevin L. Sauer, PhD, RDN, LD, FAND, October 17, at the Opening Session of the 2021 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo virtual event.

OK, here we go ...at the studio ...can’t wait to get started...this is going to be great…

Hey guys, good to see you, glad you’re here...FNCE is going to be out of this world…

Welcome to the Opening Session of FNCE the virtual event.

I’m Kevin Sauer, your 2021-2022 Academy President, coming to you from Manhattan, Kansas... located exactly in the center of the United States...1,561 miles from NYC, and 1,561 miles from San Francisco...and midway between Canada and Mexico...From here, we can see everything.

We had hoped to meet in-person in New Orleans; however, the COVID-19 health and safety protocols dictate that we gather virtually again.

This year's virtual location, just like the Academy itself, brings together food and nutrition professionals from everywhere to interact, network, earn continuing education, learn about new products and services and to celebrate what is best about our Academy and our profession.

Of course, I'm talking about you, our incredible members.

So, wherever you are taking part in FNCE, I'm so glad we can share it together.

As always, the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo is an opportunity for the world's food and nutrition experts to expand your knowledge and gain new skills to better serve your clients.

You will have the opportunity to learn from colleagues at the top of our field as they examine the relationships between nutrition, culture, technology, public policy and modern practice.

Our annual gathering holds a special place for the Academy … and not just because it is our largest event, dating back more than a century.

FNCE is where "the rubber meets the road" as we make progress toward the Academy's strategic direction …with planning, forethought and a big dose of enthusiasm. Here is where our commitment to education, research, credentials, leadership, our profession and our Academy all come together.

My enormous thanks go to the Committee for Lifelong Learning, which plans FNCE.

I also want to recognize the year-round great work of …

  • the Academy's Lifelong Learning and Engagement team
  • The Corporate Relations team … and …
  • The Conference and Event Services teams.

They all make every aspect of FNCE possible, along with our full range of professional development opportunities. Thank you for all you do!

Earlier this year, during a meeting with the Committee on Lifelong Learning, I offered the committee my thoughts on what will make a great FNCE. I urged them to:

  • Be transformational
  • Be the example
  • Inform, Intrigue, Inspire
  • Keep U in FNCE (which is to say, “FUN”) and….
  • Boldly go where no conference has gone before.

I am thrilled to say that the committee has risen to my challenge, and then some. FNCE 2021 will feature everything you liked in last year's virtual event, and so much more!

Expert speakers at this year's sessions will examine the intersections of nutrition culture including diversity and inclusion; technology; mental and physical health and modern practice; and will offer specialized tracks with the latest developments on topics such as diabetes and private practice, and skills-focused sessions to aid in career advancement.

And in a few minutes, it will be my pleasure to bring you our Opening Session Keynote Speaker, the "unshakeable optimist" Simon Sinek.

If you want to start or build or further a career in nutrition and dietetics, you have come to the right place.

Whether as a student, an intern or a practitioner, a career in nutrition and dietetics means asking ourselves big questions, like:

  • How can I make an impact on my colleagues, my educational institution, my workplace, my community in the coming years and decades?
  • How will I keep up with the emerging science of our profession and my credentialing requirements?
  • How can I build a successful career that will continue to evolve, as my life and interests change and the world changes?
  • How can I become a confident leader in dietetics and beyond?

Especially 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.

Our impact can, should be and is felt as we address the climate crisis, ensure equitable access to health care and mental health services, combat pseudoscience and misinformation, capitalize on new technologies and adequately feed all populations, to only name a few.

Here's one example of how we can all make a real impact: Work with your members of Congress to pass the recently introduced Medical Nutrition Therapy Act.

Nutrition makes a difference in the health and wellness of seniors who face multiple chronic diseases. We all agree that MNT must be part of comprehensive medical care and a frontline defense against illnesses that keep seniors from living healthy active lives.

That's why we must all act and stand for what we hold at the very core of our profession.

If the MNT Act passes, Academy members would receive more opportunities for reimbursement while also addressing the gap in care for our country's seniors who currently only have access to MNT for diabetes and renal disease – a crucial step in achieving health equity for racial and ethnic minority populations.

Our political action committee ANDPAC was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the introduction of this bill, and recently we launched the ACT now for MNT campaign. We are asking you to do three simple things.

  1. Contact your members of Congress and ask them to pass the Medical Nutrition Therapy Act
  2. Contribute $5 to ANDPAC … and …
  3. Tell five people – family members, clients and colleagues to take the public action alert.

We've also created a social media toolkit with posts and graphics that can be shared on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts. And we're capturing stories from Academy members who have taken action to show their commitment on social media to showcase the importance of MNT expansion.

As an ANDPAC member myself, I'm encouraging all Academy members to make a $5 contribution to ANDPAC today to keep our momentum going.

For the second straight year, COVID forced all of our meetings into virtual events.

And we made it work.

With my fellow members of the Board of Directors, I have participated in this past year's meetings of many of our affiliates, DPGs, MIGs and other groups.

At session after session, during discussion after discussion, I took part in forward-looking exchanges that show our grassroots groups – and their members and leaders – are confronting our most significant issues in candid, open and genuine ways.

I came away more impressed than ever at the great things that are happening at the grassroots level.

The addition of diversity and inclusion to our Strategic Plan as an impact goal is a crucial step.

A concept that each of our focus areas has in common is access. Creating resources must be accompanied by significant strides in making our services accessible to all, and increasing opportunities for all to enter and succeed in the nutrition and dietetics profession.

Just one of the major things we have done is to create a central online location where news, resources and other content related to diversity and inclusion are quickly available: the new Diversity and Inclusion Hub.

In March, the Foundation's Board of Directors conducted a high-level review of its Strategic Plan, focusing on three strategic priorities: ensuring significant efforts to support inclusion, diversity, equity and access are reflected in language used by the Foundation; investing in the signature Kids Eat Right public education program; and reaffirming its commitment to support outcomes research.

Our work in the areas of diversity and inclusion is paramount to our future … and it will not stop.

I hope all members will follow the lead of our Inclusion, Diversity, Access and Equity Committee, Affiliates, DPGs, MIGs, the Foundation and individual members, and join me in answering the "Big Question":

  • What can I do – in my workplace, in my educational institution, in my everyday life – to make nutrition and dietetics a more meaningful presence in the lives of a diverse population … and encourage diverse individuals to enter our profession and thrive in it?

The ways in which you and I answer this question will determine our future.

I am so honored to have this opportunity to serve as your President of this historical and impactful organization. I have so many people to thank.

Thank you to my colleagues, co-workers, friends, student customers, graduates, and trusted mentors for your unconditional support. I could not do this without you.

To my CDR colleagues and past and current members of the Academy's Board of Directors – you’ve believed in me and always supported me – and I thank you. To the Academy Staff and CEO Pat Babjak – I'm so impressed by your work ethic and commitment to our members. I've been surrounded by the most incredible Dietetics Dream Teams and have been inspired by each of you.

Mom and Dad – You have been such important role models in my life, pushing through adversity and always doing what is right for us, and with a sense of humor too. You have shown me that hard work – works really well! Thank you – I love you.

She caught my attention over 30 years ago in college, right here on this very campus. Christy became my best friend, and beautiful and supportive wife. You are my chief listener, best advisor, and strongest advocate. None of this would be possible without you. I am grateful to have you in my life and to travel on these journeys with you, even the virtual ones. I can’t wait for our next chapters together. I love you.

Intelligent, artistic, creative, and caring – our vibrant daughters, Jillian and Libby. You have taught me about what is most important, and I want you to know how much I love you and love having you in my life. We are proud of you and know you will both continue to do great things and impact those around you. Keep being you!

And, to all of you. Your commitment to education, research, credentials, leadership and the nutrition and dietetics profession makes all the difference in the world.

Today, key opportunities exist to tell our valuable story, with instinct and enthusiasm. Will we be open-minded, agile, and responsive enough to meet our challenges?

Of course, we will.

Let's all of us, all 112,000 credentialed practitioners, commit to act boldly. Let us identify and tackle the challenges that come our way.

We lead. We form the path that’s changing the face of nutrition, dietetics and health care.

I am so very proud of what we do.

In closing, I want to recognize that, despite COVID, you are still on the job whether at home or on the front lines.

I know the workplace, especially in health care, remains a challenging place, filled with uncertainty.

It is my hope that FNCE, even as we gather together virtually, will provide all of you with some certainty, a change of pace…a refreshing, re-motivating and re-charging experience.

Thank you again, and welcome.