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2016 Changemaker: Tracy Stuckrath, CSEP, CMM, CHC

For promoting awareness of food allergies and other dietary restrictions among meeting and event professionals

Tracy Stuckrath, CSEP, CMM, CHC, Thrive! Meetings

Tracy Stuckrath, CSEP, CMM, CHC
President & Chief Connecting Officer
Thrive! Meetings & Events

Making Change
In May 2003, I was diagnosed with an allergy to yeast. Removing it from my diet completely cleared up the medical issues that I was having, but as an in-house corporate planner with a heavy travel schedule, maintaining the yeast-free diet on the road was a huge challenge. (The list of foods that include yeast goes way beyond bread and beer.) In 2008, I took a course from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York to learn how to be healthier. It was during that course, as I sat in Lincoln Center listening to the speaker, that I had the a-ha moment. I would start a meeting planning business that also worked to educate the industry on the needs of attendees with dietary restrictions.
I’m celebrating the six-year anniversary of Thrive! Meetings & Events this spring. I started with four speaking engagements in 2011, booked 17 in 2012, 19 in 2013, and about 30 a year since then, helping industry professionals understand dietary needs, create safe and healthy menus, and more.

Best Business Advice
Be empathetic. One of my first speaking engagements included two days of speaker training, and the verdict from the trainers was that my delivery was “passionate but defensive”—I was too focused on getting my point across and not well connected to the learner’s point of view. That was a real eye-opener. To communicate effectively I had to put myself in attendees’ shoes (I know you’re busy!) and frame the message in a way they can relate to (there can be legal consequences for a company that doesn’t consider attendees’ dietary restrictions).

Think Differently
I hope to get meeting managers and F&B professionals to look at dietary restrictions as an opportunity to create something fresh and new, not just as another planning obligation or obstacle. Chefs like to be creative. Work with them. What if you had to create a meeting without chairs? It would be a chance to get creative, an opportunity for change. It can work the same way with food.

What’s Next?
I want to take my training beyond professional meeting managers to the world of human resources and administrative assistants. I did one program recently for an association of administrative professionals and got more downloads on my resource page than for any other event. There’s a real need for information there.

I also hope to get more involved in advocating for the Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2015, an important piece of legislation introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D.-Conn.) that would requiring allergen labeling of non-packaged food items (for example on restaurant menus) and add sesame to the list of allergens that must be labeled.

Sharing Expertise
Another dream I have is to bring the mentality of the slow food movement to the meetings industry. I am a member of Slow Food USA, which advocates for food that is healthy, seasonal, local, and sustainable. I applied and was accepted as a delegate to the group’s September 2016 meeting, Terra Madre, which is held every other year in Turin, Italy. I hope to bring back lots of information on how to tie meetings into the slow food mindset.

Got a Spare Hour?
If I have some time, I like to get in a five-mile walk. You might also find me mowing my lawn, catching up on “House of Cards,” or spending time with my nieces and nephew.

Previous: Changemaker Janet Sperstad, CMP

Next: Changemaker Caryn Taylor Lucia

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