Those Aha Moments
Perhaps you’ve heard of aha moments, those brief bouts of realization, inspiration, or clarity. Regional Director Sherry McGill recalled such a moment during our annual conference last October. When Firth Whitehouse was explaining the global connections of fruit roll-ups produced in Cedar Rapids, there was an audible gasp in the room as she put up one of her slides.
Using made-in-Iowa foods, including fruit roll-ups, she demonstrated that what we do here in Iowa directly influences how our global food system functions. Thirty years ago most of the ingredients in fruit roll-ups came from Iowa or other states in the U.S. However, to meet today’s demand for the product, the company also is sourcing many of the necessary ingredients from China, Brazil, and Mexico. It takes pear concentrate from China, cottonseed oil from Brazil, and pectin from Mexico just to make fruit-rollups in Cedar Rapids. It also takes applied research — on ingredients, business expansion, and sustainability. Turns out that this simple snack isn’t so simple.
As Firth noted, our world is big, but in terms of our global food system, our world really is very small. Iowa is part of an interconnected collection of many food systems, from simple to complex at local, regional, national, and international levels. Firth stated our food and environmental challenge this way: If Iowa State is to become the university that best serves its state in terms of food system needs, then we must seek out opportunities to learn about new research; work across disciplines to find solutions that Iowans can use every day; and listen to people, ask questions, and make good decisions. What aha have you had lately? See you there.