Black History Month 2021 | Reflecting on role models, education and continuity

October is Black History Month. It's a month to acknowledge and celebrate the work of prominent black figures; in our case, prominent black food scientists and food technologists both past and present. In last years' article, we researched black scientists from the past and connected with some of our current members who originate from different ethnic backgrounds to ask them about their experiences as food scientists or technologists.

This year, we want to focus on one particular question that we asked our members last year, which sparked a lot of interesting responses from our members. Because Food Science and Technology is quite a niche profession, we asked “did you have any ethnic or global role models in the science community that encouraged you to enter the profession?”

These were their responses:1

Purity Hrisca, CSci FIFST, Technical Manager, Sainsbury’s Supermarkets.

“When I joined the profession, I didn't have any ethnic role models working in the food industry. Now, I know several people from ethnic backgrounds who have senior industry positions. I do have one ethnic role model, not in the food industry though; she was an environmentalist. She is the late Professor Wangari Maathai who was a political and environmental activist, my sustainability hero. Her tenacity in protecting the environment and withstanding political harassment without abandoning her cause to save Kenya's forests won her a special place in my heart.” 

           Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to win a Nobel Prize.

Dr Daniel Amund, MIFST, Lecturer at Coventry University:

“Given how I entered the profession; I can’t say I have any particular role models in that regard. However, I would like to recognise Richard Marshall, the course leader of the MSc Food Science programme at the time, who introduced me to the IFST. I would also like to recognise Dr Hamid Ghoddusi, who supervised my masters' project and went on to be my PhD supervisor. Now that I’m a lecturer myself, I have a better appreciation of all the work that they do!”

Henrietta Sameke, MIFST, Regulatory Affairs Manager at Prinova Europe:

In relation to black and ethnic minority scientific role models, Henrietta recalls “My food studies teacher in secondary school was one of my earliest career role models who encouraged me to pursue my passion to the highest level. As a result, I was one of the first cohorts of students at my school to take it up to A-level and I am currently studying towards a professional doctorate in my spare time. 

I have found that there are not many ethnic minorities in senior positions within the UK food industry. One of my current role models is Takudzwa Kufa, the Technical Director at Green Origins. He is very passionate about food science and has established an engaging virtual Pan-African food network. He is a great mentor and constantly spurs me on to achieve more. Another role model is Barbara Bray who was recently awarded an MBE for services to food nutrition. She really inspires me and continues to do outstanding work within the industry.”

Finally, we talked with Barbara Bray MBE FIFST, Technical Consultant at Alo Solutions.

In relation to black and ethnic minority scientific role models Barbara recalls “At the time I was entering the profession the black role models I saw were mainly in sport and entertainment such as Michael Jackson, Linford Christie, Tessa Sanderson. However, at home I was in a community of families where people were doctors, pharmacists and teachers so even though there was no-one with a food background, I had many references for black people in science.”

Overall, our members have people they currently look up to in the food sector but most of them did not have someone (i.e. a black food scientist/technologist of the past), that they could mention as a role model that they could look up to, specifically in the food profession. This could be for a variety of reasons, such as the different ways people enter the food sector, not everyone has a linear trajectory into the food sector. So, they may not be aware of key black historical figures in the food sector, such as Norbert Rillieux, Emmett W. Chappelle, Lloyd Hall and Sara Thompson.1  

Even though our members didn’t have a specific food role model to look up to, they have made great contributions to the food sector and we hope that they could be role models for the future generations of food scientists and technologists.

Would you like to become a role model for students and be the reason they choose a food career?  IFST will be a STEM Ambassador trailblazer, giving you access to all the support, training, and resources you need to become an Ambassador with a focus on food science and technology. Learn more about the STEM Ambassador programme here

Why do students from minority-ethnic backgrounds not choose a food science career?

As we’ve already mentioned above, food science and technology is quite a niche profession, despite being an essential sector which we cannot live without. Because of this, we see dwindling numbers of graduates entering the food profession and lower numbers of students entering food-related degrees from various ethnic backgrounds.

This trend is not only in food science and technology. It’s also spread across the whole of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

In 2018-19, the total number of academic staff working in STEM in the UK was 109,220. According to the Royal Society, only 3.5% of academic professors identified as Black. This is how they break down by ethnicity, with the proportion of professors in each group shown as a shaded square.2

Reasons for the low percentage of Black people in STEM is primarily due to inequality in the workplace. In an article written for The Guardian, several black academics mentioned that they felt that there is a lack of equality in salaries, and also the lack of support for promotion in STEM fields.2 According to the Royal Society, “the proportion of Black students entering undergraduate and postgraduate education has increased over the past decade, as it has for other minority ethnic groups, but they are leaving STEM in greater numbers at all stages of the career pipeline” and they have called on the whole STEM sector to look into solutions to resolve this matter.3,4

Returning our focus to food science and technology, we can also see that currently, there are 53 Food Science and only 8 Food Technology degree courses in the UK.5,6 Compared to other STEM courses available, this is a small figure.

Did you know that we accredited 50 of these courses?7 Our accreditation of degree programmes/courses provides a benchmark of the potential of a programme/course to offer students the best possible food-related education; in the context of this accreditation “food-related” is used to refer to degrees related to food science and food technology. Find out more here.

At IFST, education in food science and technology is our key priority, as outlined in our Horizon Scanning Report8 and National Food Strategy9 for 2021, the food sector is in high demand of trained graduates. “Lower student numbers would be a big threat to the sustainability of the sector,” commented one respondent, summing up a common view. “We need to maximise opportunities to educate future generations.”8 said another respondent in our Horizon Scanning activity. We also need to encourage students from all ethnic backgrounds to consider a career in food science or food technology so we can build a stronger workforce.

In our latest call-to-action for the National Food Strategy, we have called for more investment in the food sector and food system resilience. By this, we mean that ‘resilience should be built-in to the UK food system, ensuring capacity to survive shocks, adapt to change and make a pivotal contribution to a thriving UK economy. This includes highly professionalised operations which provide equitable and rewarding employment for those working in them.’9

A note from IFST…

IFST currently does not offer monetary support for students and early-careers, however, we do offer a reduced membership fee for students, where they can access all of our scientific resources (including all webinars) for free and we’ve launched our ‘Feeding the Future’ campaign. If you’re at a senior level, we invite you to "pay it forward" by joining IFST and simultaneously supporting an up-and-coming food technical professional by nominating them to also join us FREE. They will get a free year of IFST membership and you will have fed the future of our food profession.10


  1. IFST. 2021. Black History Month 2020. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 21 October 2021].
  2. The Guardian. 2021. Why are there still so few black scientists in the UK?. [online] Available at: < [Accessed 21 October 2021].
  3. The Guardian. 2021. Black graduates 'shut out' of academic science and technology careers. [online] Available at: < [Accessed 21 October 2021].
  4. 2021. STEM sector must step up and end unacceptable disparities in Black staff and students academic progression and success | Royal Society. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 21 October 2021].
  5. 2021. Food Science Degrees Courses in UK | Compare Best Undergraduate University Courses | Whatuni. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 21 October 2021].
  6. 2021. Food Technology Degrees Courses in UK | Compare Best Undergraduate University Courses | Whatuni. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 21 October 2021].
  7. IFST. 2021. Accredited Degree Programmes. [online] Available at: < [Accessed 21 October 2021].
  8. IFST. 2021. Horizon Scanning Report. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 21 October 2021].
  9. IFST. 2021. IFST Publishes Call to Action to Support a UK-wide National Food Strategy. [online] Available at: < [Accessed 21 October 2021].
  10. IFST. 2021. Feeding our Future. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 21 October 2021].