It has been a long fourteen months.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, there is a sense of normalcy returning to many of our lives as more and more people become vaccinated. Families and friends who have only been connected since March 2020 via Zoom and FaceTime are finally being reunited in person. Businesses are rebounding, live events are being scheduled, and here in New Jersey, the traffic’s back on my commute to campus.
Yet, as the world returns to normal, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there are many things that people will no longer accept as normal: state-sanctioned violence against Black people and other people of color, the offering of terrible work conditions and unlivable wages by the service industry, and the inadequacy of the U.S. healthcare system, to name a few. And there are plenty of other pressing issues that will challenge our planet this century, particularly climate change’s impact on biodiversity, natural resources, and food systems. As we all become reacquainted with how nice in-person interaction feels, it may be difficult for you to justify going to yet another virtual conference. Perhaps you have other plans for your “shot girl summer” than more long days on the computer. I encourage you to put that hesitation aside. From what I’ve seen so far from my colleagues, the virtual 2021 SNEB Conference, Raising Reliance and Resilience, will be one you won’t want to miss.
This year’s conference theme recognizes the unique position that nutrition educators have to both teach and learn from the people most disproportionately impacted by society’s largest systemic issues.
We all eat; thus, food should and has the potential to be a great equalizer. Starting with ourselves and the Society, this conference will allow us to explore what systems of abuse we may unknowingly perpetuate, and how to even the playing field to achieve better and more equal food and health outcomes. As a student, seeing keynote sessions on food justice, sustainable and healthy diets, equity-oriented research, and Native American food traditions is inspiring, and reassures that I am part of a professional organization that wants to practice what it preaches, and do right by people and the planet.
I’d be remiss to not commend the great concurrent sessions being organized too. There are five tracks that attendees can choose to tailor their experience:
- Future Nutrition Education
- Building Equity
- Planetary Health
- Healthy Children & Youth
- Research & Evaluation
Or, you can go to whichever sessions sound interesting to you! One session I am very proud of is the Student Division’s first-ever sponsored session, “Let’s Talk About Diversity and Inclusion: Uplifting Student Voices.” This session has been completely planned by student members from conception to execution. I have been working with our panelists and planning team in preparing this talk, and to echo the compliments of Jasia Steinmetz, they are truly a “dream team.” I encourage you all to attend and hear some firsthand accounts, and perhaps some hard truths, of being a student of color in our field.
Our Student Division members are also fiercely represente
d in both oral and poster abstracts this year. 2020 and 2021 have been tough for student researchers—speaking from experience here!—so I applaud everyone who has been working hard to still bring cutting-edge nutrition education research, programs, and scholarship of teaching and learning to the conference this year. Your contributions to the scientific literature will help other investigators, practitioners, and educators implement more robust and meaningful nutrition education programming.
If you’ve never been to an SNEB conference or are still on the fence about attending this year, the biggest perk you get from the conference is access to a brilliant, forward-thinking, friendly community of colleagues. Is the virtual conference the exact same as attending in-person? Well, of course not. But with the Remo platform, which the entire conference will be hosted on, I’d say it’s the next best thing. For those who didn’t get to try it out last year, Remo has many of the same experiences of a conference hall, with the added bonus of getting to wear pajama bottoms and slippers, if you so choose. And with Student Member registration starting at $75, with free access to recordings for up to three years, it’s a hard bargain to beat, even on a student salary.
As a Division leader, the SNEB Conference also signifies the transition of leadership. It’s bittersweet to step down as Student Division Chair, but I am excited because I know the future is bright: not only the immediate future of the Division, which has an excellent rising Chair and Chair-Elect to help lead it forward, but the future of the nutrition education profession. I’ve met so many incredible colleagues over the past couple years who I know will continue to motivate, inspire, and challenge us all as we navigate this new food future, together. For those newer Student members who want to meet tomorrow’s leaders—well, don’t miss our Division meeting this July. More info to come!
“See” you at the conference,
Geb Bastian, RDN, Student Division Chair