Volunteers' Advisory Group

We are pleased that many of our members give up their time and use their expertise to help us meet our objective: the general advancement and application of food science and technology for the benefit, safety and health of the public.

To help us foster the engagement with volunteers, in 2015 we created a Volunteers’ Advisory Group (VAG), which sits at the intersection of the hundreds of volunteers, IFST Board and governing committees, and the IFST Executive team.

VAG aims to ensure that the voices of volunteers are heard, that volunteers have the tools and information they need and that the work they undertake aligns with IFST’s strategic priorities. The group also facilitates the sharing of good practice.


Meet the Group 

Here's your opportunity to find out more about the members involved in the Volunteers' Advisory Group. 


Alastair is currently Chief Executive Officer of SSERC, an organisation that offers a broad portfolio of services, principally in support of the STEM areas of the curriculum, specifically;

  • Provision of Career Long Professional Learning for early years, primary and secondary teachers and school and college technicians
  • The Advisory Service – offering health and safety advice and support
  • Lead Coordination role for STEM Ambassadors in Scotland and wider STEM engagement activities

As well as being a Fellow of Institute of Food Science, Alastair is an active STEM Ambassador and a previous member of the IFST Education and Careers Committee.  In his spare time, Alastair is a gym enthusiast and a season ticket holder and avid supporter of Rangers FC.



Alex Kent is a graduate of the Department of Food Science at Leeds University, and has spent his career in Technical Management, Quality Assurance and New Product Development within the Food Industry.

He has worked for blue chips such as Marks & Spencer, Unilever (Batchelor’s), Spillers Foods (Homepride), Unigate, the Lusty Group, and latterly at Fibrisol Service – a major supplier of functional food ingredients, as well as for smaller organisations.

In addition, he has taught at secondary level, worked for a Trading Standards Department in Bedfordshire in enforcement, and was for a short time an Hotel & Restaurant Inspector for Egon Ronay.

Recently retired, Alex devotes his efforts to helping small businesses with respect to food safety systems, primarily through SALSA where he performs both auditing and mentoring in diverse sectors, from fish processing to craft breweries. He is also involved with the Food Club, an organisation designed for networking and self-help in and around the London area. 

Alex is an Honorary Fellow and has held the posts of Hon. Treasurer and Hon. Secretary, apart from pursuing active service on the Finance Committee, Food Law and Food Safety SiGs and involvement with the South Eastern Branch.

In his role as the Independent Assessor, he acts as an observer, acting on behalf of the members to ensure that the Board of Trustees and the Executive operate according to the Institute’s charitable principles.

Outside these interests, he considers that he plays a mean hand of bridge, and exhibits a fondness for fermented grape juice, malt extracts and other delights.



Since 1986, Margaret’s vocation and passion has been working in the field of Sensory Science. She ran her own consultancy for seven years before retiring in 2015. She built her career and reputation working for Walker’s Snack Foods, Glaxo SmithKline, Campden BRI and Sensory Dimensions.

As founding member of IFST’s Sensory Science Group (SSG), she became its first chairman when it was inaugurated from a Special Interest Group to Professional Group in October 1999. Up to her retirement, she remained an active member of the SSG committee specifically acting as coordinator of its Education & Accreditation working group, and in this role was also involved with the Professional Development Committee (PDC).  Margaret joined the Volunteers Advisory Group (VAG) at its inception three years ago.

Margaret’s volunteering activity now extends to stewarding at the National Trust’s Croome Park site and assisting at her grandsons’ school.



Ruth is a Nutritionist / Food Scientist currently working as the Human Intervention Studies Manager in the Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food and Health (NICHE). Ruth has a BSc in Food Science and Technology, a Diploma in Industrial Studies, Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Authority and a PhD in Nutrition. Her main research interests include wholegrains and health, under- and over-nutrition and food choice. She has extensive experience in designing and conducting human intervention trials, dietary nutritional assessment and in working with food companies in food product development.  

VAG Newsletter

Access issue 1 of the newsletter here

IFST Impact Award 2019

What is the Impact Award?

We value the important contribution that volunteers bring to the work and life of the Institute. Without the contribution of the volunteers who serve on committees, branches and special interest groups, we would find it difficult to achieve the strategic priorities set out by the Board of Trustees.

In 2017, we introduced the Impact Award as a way in which volunteers could be recognised for the many great activities and innovations that they undertake, and which contribute to IFST strategic priorities.

The Impact Award is an opportunity for volunteers to showcase an activity which has been undertaken which meets the following criteria:

An activity which:

  1. is new and has been undertaken in the last 12 months which delivers measurable impact to any/all of IFSTs strategic priorities OR
  2. is an existing activity which has undergone and adaptation or change in order to deliver and enhanced impact linked to any/all of IFSTs strategic priorities
  3. is scalable and sustainable

If you think that your committee, branch or special interest group has an activity that meets the above criteria – then why not share it with others and at the same time have the opportunity of winning!

The submission processes

Putting in a submission is a very straightforward and easy process, involving the completion of a two-page form, containing 6 questions and with a 500-word limit.

What is the time scale?

You can e-mail a submission between 30 November 2018 and 08 February 2019.

All submissions will be reviewed and ranked by the Volunteer Advisory Group with the top three going forward to be announced at the Volunteers Assembly on 12 March 2019, where the winner will be announced, and a presentation made.

What could we win?

A real treat awaits members of the winning branch/region/group for them to enjoy at their next meeting.

Previous winners include

2017 The Sensory Science Group submitted their activity on the maintenance and development of the IFST Sensory Science Group (SSG) Foundation and Intermediate Sensory Science Courses and the Register of Professional Sensory Scientists.

2018 The Student Group submitted an activity based on a live Student Association Global summit breakout session, using digital technology and digital communication, to reach 500 attendees from across the globe. The focus of the session was 'international careers' and involved both a live panel discussion and association Q and A session.

Sharing good practice is always encouraged and so all entries will be made available to view via the IFST website after the announcement of the winning entry at the Volunteers Assembly.

Volunteers' Advisory Group Forum

Volunteers' Advisory Group Forum can be used to instigate professional discussion and debate between volunteers and the VAG, to share examples of good practice and to provide the VAG with comments and suggestions as to how we and IFST can support volunteers so they can undertake their activities effectively.

How to access the forum

Step 1 

Login to the IFST website using your My IFST credentials (top right hand corner on desktop, or top left hand corner [three lines] on mobile)

Step 2

Click on My Forum Notifications

Step 3

Click on Volunteers’ Advisory Group. Then ‘Add a new forum topic’ or open an existing thread to read and submit comments.

Please note that posts can be read by any IFST member.

Impact Award form 2019 FINAL.docx