The Western Association of Food Chains is one of several sponsors — along with Fred Meyer (a division of Kroger Co.), PepsiCo and Costco — of a diversity-recruitment program at Portland State University in Oregon called “Pathways to the Future.”
According to Tom Gilpatrick, executive director of the Food Industry Leadership Center at PSU, the university became aware of the lack of a broad minority representation among students in the FILC, “so we spoke to the people at PepsiCo, which is deeply committed to diversity, and they encouraged us to put together an initiative to create an outreach to African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians at community colleges and high schools that would encourage more diverse people to enter the food industry.”
Pepsi provided a five-year grant of $350,000 and said it would put in another $150,000 if PSU could raise $150,000 from other sources, which it did, Gilpatrick said.
Gilpatrick estimated that in the last 18 months PSU has touched more than 1,000 students at high schools, community colleges, career fairs, churches and other community organizations. Of the 54 students currently in the FILC program, 25 come from a so-called diverse background, he said — “a number that would probably have been closer to seven two years ago,” he noted.
“When you talk to young people about the food industry, most of them think of the clerk at a fast-food restaurant, or a grocery store cashier or someone loading trucks,” he explained. “They don't have any idea of the career opportunities in retail food companies — they just don't see it. So we're trying to give them more exposure through store tours, facility tours and meetings with executives.”
In fact, a career fair will follow the annual Food Industry Leadership Center conference in October, he added.
PSU has hired Rahel Yared as manager of student programs and diversity; part of her job is to go out to high schools to talk about business, Gilpatrick said. PSU has also partnered with other Oregon groups to meet with children of migrant workers and encourage them to pursue industry careers, he added.