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Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center

$1 million gift provides opportunity to develop OSU food-safety program

An advisory board of Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center recognized the need to educate students in food safety, providing more than $1 million as a lead gift toward a $3.4 million fundraising goal to create a food-safety program at OSU.

By Mandy Gross, FAPC Communications Services Manager

(Stillwater, Okla. – Sept. 30, 2014) An advisory board of Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center recognized the need to educate students in food safety, providing more than $1 million as a lead gift toward a $3.4 million fundraising goal to create a food-safety program at OSU.

“We are so grateful that FAPC’s Industry Advisory Committee is embracing this opportunity to lead this fundraising effort,” said Chuck Willoughby, FAPC manager of business and marketing relations. “One hundred percent of the advisory board has committed to support this financial campaign.”

As a result of the initial gift, a curriculum proposal for the food-safety option is in the approval process and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources is adding a food-safety faculty position in the department of animal science.

“The potential for this academic program is exciting,” said Thomas G. Coon, vice president, dean and director for OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. “There has been very good leadership from the academic department in responding to this opportunity.”

John Griffin, president and CEO of Griffin Foods in Muskogee, Okla., and spokesperson for FAPC’s advisory board, said the committee has been discussing the need for a food-safety program for the past four years.

“It’s great to see the work of the advisory board on developing a food-safety program at OSU come to fruition,” Griffin said. “Once the food-safety option is approved and implemented, OSU will be among the first to offer an undergraduate food-safety option, according to our research.”

The goal of the proposed academic program is to prepare students for food-safety jobs for which they will be well trained to obtain in the food-manufacturing industry after graduation.

“Food manufacturers can invest their money to hire a qualified food-safety specialist from OSU instead of investing their time and money to train someone in food safety,” Griffin said.

There is a huge demand for individuals who are specialized in food safety in the food-processing sector.

“The proposed new food-safety option will allow students to get the education they need to qualify for food-safety positions that food manufacturers desperately need,” Griffin said. “Like the movie ‘Field of Dreams,’ when we build it, the students will come, not just in Oklahoma, but nationally and internationally.”

The program will serve beyond food manufacturing and will include all sectors of the food industry from production agriculture to wholesale and retail distribution channels. Ingredient, packaging and equipment suppliers also are affected by food-safety issues, as are regulatory entities.

This program will encompass all food-safety needs, domestically and globally, once fully implemented.

“What is the future; what is our vision?” Griffin asked. “It’s constantly evolving as OSU’s commitment moves forward in opportunities to be world-renowned in food safety.”

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Oklahoma State University is a modern land-grant system of interdisciplinary programs that prepares students for success. OSU is America’s Brightest Orange. Through leadership and service, OSU is preparing students for a bright future and building a brighter world for all. As Oklahoma’s only university with a statewide presence, OSU improves the lives of people in Oklahoma, the nation and the world through integrated, high-quality teaching, research and outreach. OSU has more than 36,000 students across its five-campus system and more than 24,000 on its combined Stillwater and Tulsa campuses, with students from all 50 states and around 120 nations. Established in 1890, OSU has graduated more than 245,000 students to serve Oklahoma, the nation and the world.