By David Fikes, Executive Director, FMI Foundation

Whether you receive them or deliver them, the words “we need to talk” are usually accompanied by a stomach churn. The reason is simple, that phrase usually means there is an area of concern that has been avoided, danced around, or alluded to, but not covered in previous exchanges and now needs to be brought out into the open and faced head-on. “We need to talk” means the discomfort we’ve skirted must now be embraced and confronted. It is seldom simple, often distressful and very infrequently settled in one conversation. Adequately addressing an issue that has been building up over time, usually requires multiple exchanges to unravel the knots, tease out the various strands and get to the heart of the matter. That requires learning to patiently sit more comfortably with the discomfort before resolution can be found. We may wish it were quick and easy, but “we need to talk” usually means things have gotten complicated. This is true on a personal level and it is doubly true when it comes to tackling social issues.

There is no magic wand to wave and make all the racial justice, diversity and inclusion issues disappear from our industry, our society or our world. These are complex topics, fraught with emotion and historical baggage that will require long term concerted discussions, honest exchanges, and disciplined dialogue to address. It is for this reason that FMI and the Center for Food Integrity have committed to host an ongoing series of digital dialogues addressing the issues of racial justice, diversity and inclusion within the various sectors of the food industry. This initiative is offered to provide a safe place where food industry leaders can discuss how race and diversity issues are being addressed in their companies, including the challenges they’ve faced, progress they’ve made and opportunities that remain. Having hosted two of them, we can attest there are things learned and resources shared in every exchange.

Our next digital dialogue takes place on January 20, 2021, at 4 pm EST. In this session, Mike Haddad of Schreiber Foods and Purdue University’s Candace Croney, Ph.D. will discuss racial justice, inclusion and diversity in the food and agriculture sector. As with our previous digital dialogue webcasts, this discussion will be moderated by A’Yanna Webster, Ph.D., CEO of Winning Within & Associates, Howard and Ackerman.

Please join us in this ongoing conversation as “we need to talk” about these issues.

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