Since joining FDA in 1998, I have attended two of the four national Consumer Food Safety Education Conferences that have been held. As an education specialist I develop food safety materials and programs. It’s interesting and rewarding work, but from time to time a kind of stale feeling creeps in, a sense that you’re just doing variations of things you’ve done a lot of before. So the question is: how do you revive your motivation, your appetite for what you’re doing? Two things work for me. One is a big new project unlike anything I’ve done before, but those don’t come along very often, primarily because they typically are expensive and the resources are rarely available.
The other? Attend a conference where your peers gather, where you can absorb some of the energy behind all the food safety education activity going on in our large and busy country. I had been to many conferences before while in other jobs and generally found them interesting, but what a difference in attending one that was entirely focused on the kind of work that I was doing. Everyone I met, every presentation I heard, bore directly on what I do every day. My only problem was choosing what would be most useful to me among breakout sessions. And aside from whom I met and what I learned, it was fun. I found myself talking to people I had only known from email exchanges and telecons, people who were using materials I had had a hand in developing and distributing (and who had suggestions to make them more effective), and people I didn’t know anything about who had creative and unusual approaches to food safety education.
I missed the first national food safety education conference because I wasn’t working in the field at the time, and I missed the last one because of a prior commitment. But I won’t miss the one coming up in December.
Howard Seltzer is National Education Advisor at the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.