ERI logo

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Established in 2007, the Education and Research Institute (ERI) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation subsidiary of Food Northwest.  The ERI has no members; it is governed by a Board of Directors.

Skilled employees are a key asset and vital to the success of any business operation.  The food industry identified the inability to find workers with the necessary skills as a major challenge for the industry.  Thousands of positions throughout the Northwest states remain unfilled.  ERI was founded to assist the industry in addressing this critical need.

ERI VISIONEpic Talent for the Food Industry.  The vision is what the ERI is working to accomplish.

ERI MISSION:  Recruit, Collaborate, and Educate to Attract Talent to the Food Industry.  The mission is how the ERI will achieve the vision.

ERI’s purposes are to:

  • Provide educational and learning opportunities for students interested in a trade, technical or professional careers
  • Provide financial support in the form of scholarships, grants, internships, loans or matching funds to students, researchers, continuing learners and incumbent workers for training, education, research, and development of skills for application in business or academia
  • Improve the regional pool and pipeline of talented trade, technical and professional workers, with a special emphasis on women and minority workers; and
  • Work to improve productivity and innovation capacity in the organizations within the Northwest food and agriculture cluster to help retain and create jobs, support rural communities and improve the regional economy. 



sue root

ERI Board members are employed by or retired from a food processing company.  They also include suppliers to the food industry and other stakeholders.  However, a majority of the Directors must be employed by, working for, or retired from a member company of Food Northwest.

Sue Root, Chair 
Oregon Cherry Growers, Inc.
Director of Field Services & Processing Fruit


John Damon                                Matt Franke
OFD Foods, Inc.                            Core Botanica Processors
Sr. VP Manufacturing                    Plant Manager           

Casey Garten                               Gabino Gispert                             Ed Johnson
Bank of the West                           Calbee North America, LLC         Oregon Cherry Growers, Inc. 
Senior VP                                         General Manager                            (retired)

David Luther                                Jim Munyon                                 Clark Nelson
Milne Fruit Products, Inc.             J.R. Simplot Company                  Mondelez International
VP of Operations                             (retired)                                           (retired)

Marc Skinner                               Melissa Spain                              Steve Travis
BYU - Idaho                                    Moss Adams                                 Oregon Cherry Growers, Inc.
Executive Officer – SE                     Business Assurance Partner          (retired)

Damon Vickers                           Rich Avila
Cummins, Goodman, Denley    W.W. Grainger, Inc
& Vickers P.C.                               MRO Account Manager - Manufacturing          

Please contact Board Secretary Pam Barrow, [email protected], if you are interested in serving on the ERI Board or know somebody who would be a good candidate, or are interested in volunteering in the work of the ERI. 

ERI board


ERI endowment

To celebrate its 75th anniversary in 1989, Food Northwest established the Endowment Fund and a scholarship program.  Since 1989, scholarship awards have totaled more than $400,000.  ERI manages the Endowment Fund and the programs that it supports.

The Endowment Fund is used to:

  • Support the purposes of the ERI.
  • Contribute to the annual operating budget.
  • Provide Scholarship Awards for students pursuing studies relevant to food manufacturing at accredited educational and vocational institutions in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.
  • Provide internship opportunities for students enrolled at accredited institutions.
  • Fund research projects of benefit to the food industry with accredited institutions of higher learning, government agencies, or professional private consultants.
  • Support workforce development and skills training for incumbent employees of Food Northwest member companies.

Click here to learn more about the ERI Scholarship Program.



The ERI is funded through charitable contributions.  Supporting its operations and growing the Endowment Fund assures that ERI can work toward achieving its vision and mission. It also means that it can continue to support scholarships, internships, research, and other education-related programs.  ERI welcomes donations of any size to help provide educational and career opportunities for students and food processing employees and to attract and develop talented and skilled workers for the food industry. 

Visit this page to learn more!