The Thompson Family Foundation Travel Fund

The Thompson Family Foundation Travel Fund has been made possible by a generous donation from UW Alumnus Robert Thompson. This fund will be used to provide financial assistance to Nutritional Sciences students attending conferences, trade shows and expos focused on the food industry. The intent of the travel grant is to provide students with an opportunity to encounter the food industry in order to better understand how nutritional science training relates to the larger food industry issues and to learn about career opportunities in the food industry.

Some of the previous Thompson Travel Award recipients have shared highlights from their experiences below.


Liz Gore, Institute of Food Technologists Conference

Through generous support from the Thompson Family Foundation Travel Fund, I was able to attend the 2017 Institute of Food Technologists Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. At IFT, I was exposed to the food industry through educational sessions and a food expo. The conference was attended by over 20,000 individuals, including representatives from large companies, academics, researchers, and students. Educational sessions focused on novel food products such as lab-grown meat, edible insects, and the potential for space farming. As a future nutrition professional, these sessions gave me an opportunity to brainstorm possible intersections between nutrition and the food industry. The food expo was enormous and featured 1,200 exhibitors with a variety of novel samples and products. I was able to sample unique items such as a beet and almond iced latte and various new meatless items. As a future Registered Dietitian, this conference was a wonderful opportunity to learn about new food trends and technologies that will impact the food environment and eating habits.


Cathy House, Institute of Food Technologists Conference

The 2017 Institute of Food Technologists Conference in Las Vegas was an intriguing shift from the nutritional science and public health topics I encounter in my graduate studies at UW. This conference includes an enormous Expo floor featuring hundreds of industry vendors, intensive Short-Courses, and a vast array of drop-in sessions that address everything from adding probiotics to granola bars to growing body parts using a scaffold made from an apple. Nutrition seems to be gaining a heavier hand within the food industry, and it was intriguing to hear how industries are adapting to public pressure for healthier options and upcoming changes in food policy. This scholarship provided me the opportunity to learn extensively about USDA and FDA policy changes, food standards, and naming conventions. I also was introduced to innovative food products, such as ready-to-eat slaughter-free meat, and heard food industry perspectives on how they plan to feed a growing population. While some aspects of this conference clashed with my approach to population health, it was still fascinating to get an inside view of the food industry and gain a better understanding of where potential health allies are within the food industry.


Sepideh Dibay Moghadam, America’s Food & Beverage Show

As a graduate student in the UW Nutritional Science Program I was fortunate to get awarded funding through the Thompson Family Foundation Travel Fund to attend the annual “America’s Food and Beverage Show and Conference” in Miami, Florida. Over 500 exhibitors from 28 different countries were present at this exhibition to demonstrate their newest products.  The conference allowed manufacturers, marketers, distributors, and traders to network and develop partnerships and create new opportunities.  Educational seminars were quite informative on how to start one’s own brand and develop menus, as well as how to start an import-export business, through sessions lead by experts in each realm.  As a graduate student with prior experience in the food industry and food imports, this exhibition gave me the opportunity to get updated information about the new products from around the word while learning more about the food trade strategies and policies.


Krista Ulatowski, Fancy Foods Conference

BOGO, FSI, POS – this is a smattering of the lingo overheard at the recent Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. As a graduate student in the University of Washington’s Masters in Nutrition program, there are opportunities to apply for travel scholarships, and I was fortunate to be awarded the opportunity to attend and learn at this event.

More than 17,000 retailers, buyers, food entrepreneurs, marketers and others were present this year, where they networked with one another and showcased new products – 80,000 of them! Words can’t describe the overwhelming expo hall – one needed a spare stomach to truly enjoy all the samples. Notables included soy sauce mochi, beet chips, seaweed snacks and even caviar. Trending items were gluten-free foods, fermented foods, quinoa and cake pops. Local Seattle vendors gaining visibility were Boat Street, Fran’s Chocolates, Chukar Cherries and Skillet Street Food, to name a few.

Educational sessions provided a wealth of information on the lingo of the specialty foods industry; marketing and pricing a new product; and how to work with buyers, distributors and co-packers. As a future RD that is interested in food marketing, learning about product labeling with terms such as “organic” or “all-natural” was eye-opening, especially when walking the show floor and seeing countless goodies labeled as such, or as “guilt-free.” Label debates aside, it was certainly a show that appealed to the senses and taught me plenty regarding the food industry.


Catherine Karlak, Institute of Food Technologists  Conference

The 2015 Institute of Food Technologists conference in Chicago was a fantastic opportunity to learn about the food industry and particularly how it intersects with the field of nutrition.  The conference tagline is Where Science Feeds Innovation—and I had the opportunity to sit in on some fascinating presentations on futuristic food ideas, including edible insects and meat produced in test-tubes.  There was an informative panel of former members of dietary guideline committees, which discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the scientific evidence behind these guidelines. The microbiome was also a popular topic at the conference, and I was able to see several sessions looking at how modern food ingredients, such as emulsifiers, or soluble fiber, might negatively and positively affect the gut microbiota. These presentations were frequently given by nutrition scientists to an audience of food technologists, and it was interesting to see how a concerns raised about food ingr!
edients and supported by scientific evidence were met by innovative proposals on how to change food production practices.

The IFT expo floor was HUGE, with vendors and booths representing all facets of the food industry.  This experience also provided insight into how products are marketed, and what food trends are likely to be popular in the coming years, on a global level. All in all, this conference was a whirlwind tour through the food industry, and introduced me to several topics and researchers that I am now following with interest. I am very grateful for the opportunity to have attended IFT 2015, and would highly recommend the experience to other nutrition/dietetic students.


Elizabeth Hulbrock, Institute of Food Technologists  Conference

Through assistance provided by the Thompson Family Foundation Travel Fund, I attended the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting in Chicago. IFT’s annual meeting provides an opportunity for professionals in the food industry to foster business relationships while learning about the latest research and products in the food industry. It was exciting to attend a conference that brought together professionals from many different specialties, including industry leaders, researchers, and several dietitians. The food expo provided perhaps the greatest insight into the food industry. Thousands of representatives from various companies provided information about new products along with plenty of samples. As a dietetic student with an interest in nutrition counseling, it was especially helpful to learn about new products, food trends, and marketing considerations. Education sessions proved informative, covering everything from the microbiome to dietary guideline updates to food marketing and processing.