January 12, 2016
The food journalism and advocacy reform community lost an important member on January 8 when Ralph F. Loglisci succumbed to injuries sustained in October 2014. He was hit by a car while crossing the street in San Francisco, where he was attending a board meeting of the Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN). At the time, Ralph was the Director of Digital Engagement and Outreach for FERN.
I first met Ralph when I was recruiting staff for the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production that was just getting off the ground in late 2004. The Commission, established by a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, was to develop recommendations to solve the public health, environmental, animal welfare and rural community problems caused by industrial farm animal production.
Ralph was an Emmy award-winning news producer at WBAL-TV in Baltimore. He also had received an AP Outstanding Newscast Award. While he had more than 15 years’ experience in the television news business, he had next to none in covering food system issues when he joined the Commission. What he did have was a burning personal commitment to an improved food system because of his own experience in losing more than 200 pounds through diet and exercise, an accomplishment that garnered a story in PEOPLE Magazine. Weight had been a life-long problem for him and he turned that personal struggle into a burning desire to promote a healthier food environment for everyone.
During the life of the Pew Commission, we traveled across the country to visit broiler, egg, dairy, and swine concentrated animal feeding operations, as well as beef feedlots. We heard statements from hundreds of impacted people in communities where the operations were located, met regularly with industry advocates and representatives, environmental advocates, and federal agency personnel who, in theory, regulated the industry.
I found Ralph to be much more than a “news person” and any concern I had about his lack of background in agriculture issues soon vanished. He did what I had hoped he would do, dig into the issues and put the inquiring lens of a news producer on everything the Commission reviewed and heard. He was a quick study on the issues and was always able to point out discrepancies in the talking points used by the industry.
He pointed out, after listening to a number of presentations, during a visit to a large broiler company operation claiming not to use antibiotics in their production system, that they were still using small amounts of antibiotics by injecting gentamicin in eggs to preserve anti-viral drugs also given in ovum. And Ralph was the one who did the math on data collected by the Federal Food and Drug Administration through the Animal Drug User Fee Act that showed 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States were used in food animal production. The industry had been claiming only 18-20 percent of antibiotic were sold for use in food animals. (Editor’s note: Ralph published 42 blogposts during his tenure at CLF. His 2010 post, New FDA Numbers Reveal Food Animals Consume Lion’s Share of Antibiotics, is still one of LivableFuture’s most viewed stories.)
Ralph loved technology, especially anything produced by Apple, and he was an early adopter of every new iPhone, iPad, recording equipment, camera, or Apple laptop. I am certain he never slept outside an electronic store for a week to be first in line, but was always among the first group.
After the Commission, Ralph further pursued his passion for food system reform at the CLF as part of the Healthy Monday Campaigns. Later, he expanded his horizons by working for the Slow Food USA, as Director of Communications and Public Outreach at Wholesome Wave, as well as doing a great amount of independent communications consulting for advocates for reform of the food system. He was a respected voice through his writing for Civil Eats and The Huffington Post, as well as his personal blog, finally becoming the Director of Digital Engagement and Outreach for FERN when he was struck by the car.
Ralph was a hale fellow well met. He met personal trials and professional obstacles with good humor and a positive attitude and I never once heard him not respond to a personal or professional request for help. He was an ebullient person whose enthusiasm was contagious.
I will miss him greatly.
Here are some more remembrances gathered from people at CLF.
From Pam Berg:
Ralph began working on the Monday campaigns after I relocated and shifted projects, but I recall being struck by how seriously he took the mission of Healthy Monday, having recently achieved his own personal health goals. His belief in the campaign coupled with his do-anything attitude launched the Monday Mile and many other Monday programs that continue around the Hopkins campus today. He may be gone, but his legacy on the Hopkins campus will inspire and help others to achieve their own personal health goals.
From Dave Love:
Ralph and I shared an office for several years, and he taught me so many things. On any given day, I would read and share new scientific papers with him, and he would keep me abreast of the latest culture, media, and politics of food and agriculture. The one thing that sticks with me was his ability to cut through a media smokescreen, see an issue for what it really was, and predict the outcome to a tee.
From Kate McCleary:
Ralph is the reason I became involved with CLF. I’d seen him give a lecture for the Hopkins Odyssey/Mini-Med School program and eventually worked with him and Raychel Santo on the Healthy Mondays campaign over the summer of 2011. I can’t think of a better way to describe him than the words in the obituary: “Ralph is remembered by family and friends as a compassionate and caring soul whose creative energy and contagious optimism were as reliable as his effervescent good humor.” His enthusiasm was contagious and inspiring, and I am so grateful to have known him.
From Roni Neff:
What I feel when I think of him is a quality of warmth and caring that radiated from him, but that’s not something that fits easily into words. Ralph was full of energy and deeply committed to improving food systems. I will remember most his warmth, kindness and positivity. He made everyone around him feel good.