As Director of Career Services at ICE, I see a lot of people who want to make a career change. But lately, I’ve seen a trend among our students and alumni looking to make not only a change in career, but a change in their communities. No longer satisfied with feeding only a small percentage of the population within fine dining restaurants, many alumni are driven to impact as many people as possible via their chosen profession. With this growing interest in mind, we put together a panel discussion about “Careers with a Conscience” and invited back ICE alumni who are doing their part to better the world through food.

Cathy Berg (Culinary ’03), National Manager, Educational Outreach, of Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters Program, Laura Stanley (Culinary ’98), Learning Lab Manager, School Food FOCUS and Jon Zeltsman (Culinary ’04), Co-Director of Community Markets all participated in a lively discussion about the opportunities available to folks looking to channel their passion for food and social change into a career track.

Their personal stories reflect a great diversity of prior backgrounds — marketing professional (Cathy), glossy magazine editor (Laura) and woodworking business owner (Jon), and their eventual careers led them to tackle a diverse set of food-related social issues — anti-hunger and nutritional education, school food reform and community access via farmers markets to local, sustainable foods.

While panelists mentioned the personal satisfaction they get in working in these areas, they also highlighted the huge challenges facing their respective missions. For instance, Laura mentioned that the budgeted cost of providing a school lunch is under $1 per student, so working with large school districts to leverage their procurement power and create collaborative opportunities to learn from other districts is essential to creating the most healthful meals within these tight budget constraints. Cathy also pointed to Share Our Strength’s recently launched campaign to end childhood hunger by 2015, as a seemingly impossible goal, yet stressed that we should think big about what we can achieve.With all popular buzz about sustainability, Jon cautioned that we must also be conscious of the sustainability of businesses that advocate and support food sustainability. While volunteerism is a wonderful way to learn about (and potentially get hired by) companies and organizations, he stressed that one should also look to get compensated for one’s work. Otherwise, the inroads made towards increased sustainability will not themselves be sustainable.

The thought-provoking evening ended with a short presentation by Taylor Cocalis and Dorothy Neagle, the founders of Good Food Jobs, a job search resource geared to those seeking meaningful food work within food artisans, education, advocacy, and so much more. The presentation and panel was a chance to think about how the culinary industry can give back to the community and help make changes they would like to see.

For more info about upcoming career panels, check out our professional development page.

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