Janet Erickson '80 Food & Nutrition

Janet Erickson photo

Janet Erickson claimed her degree in food and nutrition in 1980, and has since managed quality assurance, procurement and distribution management through supply chains for several restaurant corporations. Most people outside the food business didn’t know what a supply chain was. Then COVID-19 came along.

A food supply chain refers to the multiple steps that move food from the farm to the kitchen table. The economic shutdowns during the pandemic resulted in nationwide shortages and delivery delays.

“The restaurant industry is dynamic, but the supply chain is at the core of everything,” Erickson says. “COVID-19 was a wake-up call for the CEOs, who are realizing the importance of having a strong supply chain team.”

Erickson credits her parents for encouraging her and her two sisters to have careers, and Cal Poly for preparing her to thrive in the working world.

“Our parents raised us to believe we were capable of doing whatever we set our minds to do,” she says. “There was more talk of careers than in marrying and having children. As an adult, I realized my upbringing wasn’t typical for girls at that time.”

Erickson recalls the classes at Cal Poly Pomona that had the biggest impact on her was a series on quantity food production, taught by Ruthanna A. Davis.

“We had to design a blueprint for a food production facility, including everything from equipment to the menu. I still have the blueprint,” she says.

Erickson has worked for Denny’s Restaurants, Carl Karcher Enterprises, Del Taco and Brinker International, and has been active in national restaurants and produce marketing groups.

“I didn’t realize when I was starting out that women didn’t have the same prospects for advancement as men, and I am proud of what I accomplished,” she says. That includes becoming the first female chairman of the Produce Marketing Association in 2006.

When Erickson retired, she moved with her husband to Hayden, Idaho, and started the 48 North Supply Chain Consulting business.

Her advice to current students?

“Work hard and ask good questions; college is where you start to learn who you are going to be.”