Plowman Delivers Keynote to Tennessee Grocery Execs and Workers
Chancellor Donde Plowman lauded the role of grocery stores in our communities and shared the industry-supporting research and workforce development efforts happening at UT Knoxville during her recent remarks at the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association Expo in Sevierville.
“So much of our lives take place around food—from weekly rituals like going to the store as a family to big celebrations. It’s how we show love and care and comfort,” Plowman said after the event. “As we head into the long Memorial Day weekend, it’s a remind of that neighborhood grocery stores and markets touch nearly every aspect of life in our families and communities.”
Speaking in front of industry leaders and workers, Plowman shared the work of faculty to tackle challenges like food security, nutrition, and supply chain logistics. Research projects include developing strategies to reduce food waste in grocery stores, antifreezing agents to improve the quality of frozen foods, bio-based alternatives to paraffin waxes, and potatoes with 10 times more protein.
Food security is one of several focus areas for a $50 million cluster hiring initiative the university is undertaking to build up cross-disciplinary expertise to solve complex societal problems. Along with research projects like precision agriculture and food production, the university plans to launch a new academic program in agriculture informatics to prepare graduates to create and deploy new technologies. Another new program, in food systems and health, will train health professionals to improve nutrition and reduce diet-related disease.
“We aren’t just developing new technologies—we’re training the workforce that will implement it,” Plowman said. “Across the university, we are educating the students who will impact this industry—from agriculture and food science to supply chain and data analytics to communication and information sciences.”
Plowman pointed to a course required for every student in UT’s Haslam College of Business that involves a weeks-long project to design, analyze, and use a grocer database. Graduate students in the College of Communication and Information’s online master’s program in strategic and digital communications work with food industry leaders such as Dairy Alliance, Cracker Barrel, and Chick-fil-A.
“UT is here to serve the state of Tennessee, and that means working across industries and sectors to build the future we all want,” Plowman said. “We share the desire and a vision for a prosperous Tennessee, and the only way we achieve it is together.”