After 43-year career, Food Entrepreneur Program leader Gifford retiring

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After 43-year career, Food Entrepreneur Program leader Gifford retiring

Jill Gifford
Jill Gifford, retiring from the Food Entrepreneur Program

Jill Gifford, manager of the Food Entrepreneur Program with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Food Processing Center is retiring May 31, after a 43-year career.

“I started working at the Dairy Store in high school,” Gifford said. “A year after I started college at UNL, I was offered the Dairy Store manager position. It was a godsend because it paid for my tuition.”

Gifford graduated with a dual major in business and advertising.

In 1983, Nebraska U established the Food Processing Center, and Gifford added assistant to the dairy plant manager to her duties. In 1994, Gifford moved to the FPC’s National Food Entrepreneur Program. She became the manager of the program a year later. In 2010, she began coordinating the FPC’s variety of food science and business workshops offered to the public.

“Jill has been an integral contributor to the success of the FPC,” Terry Howell, Jr., executive director of the Food Processing Center, said. “Her National Food Entrepreneur Program was the first of its kind, inspiring many others across the country. She has supported countless people who have been able to pursue their dreams of starting a food business. We hope to carry on her legacy.”

Gifford has advised hundreds of food entrepreneurs over the years, assisting businesses selling everything from pasta sauce to jams and jellies.

“We can work with anyone all over the country and we can help develop any food or beverage product — some food centers are limited in what they can offer, and we often receive their referrals. We have a complete program for entrepreneurs — from the business aspects to the technical side, we’re a one-stop shop.” Gifford said. “Working with entrepreneurs, that’s been my love — watching them grow.”

“Jill has been a constant, faithful presence serving small food manufacturers in Nebraska and beyond,” Curt Weller, department head for Food Science and Technology, said. “She’s been the instrumental force driving our entrepreneurial program which has served as a model for other centers.”

Gifford has always enjoyed traveling and a career highlight was a trip to Tanzania as part of a grant to assist a local university in establishing its food center.

A private reception is being held for Gifford. Good wishes may be sent by email to Cards or letters may be sent to Food Innovation Center.

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