January 12, 2016

Ralph Loglisci 1971-2016

Robert Martin

Robert Martin

Director of Food System Policy

Center for a Livable Future

Ralph-radioThe 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.

Ralph-riverDuring 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.  

14 Comments

  1. Posted by Shelley Hearne

    Thank you, Bob, for such a thoughtful and insightful piece about Ralph. He was a contributor in so many ways. He brought passion and facts to life. He helped the commission make a difference in the world by being a great translator and a nonstop engine. His good humor was always appreciated. He’s a man who helped make important things happen and he will be missed. But I’m glad his legacy lives on in so many of his good deeds. Thanks again, Bob, for sharing all the news about Ralph over these last few difficult years.

  2. Posted by Bob Lawrence

    Beautifully said, Bob. Ralph was indeed an energetic, warm man with a huge heart. He brightened many of my days with his wonderful sense of humor and capacity to put the challenges of our work at the CLF in perspective. He and I talked many times about his becoming a part-time MPH student in our distance education program, and I deeply regret that never came to pass. He had already become a public health professional with his dedication and insights about reforming the food system. My condolences go out to all who knew and loved Ralph.

  3. Posted by Patti Truant Anderson

    This is such a lovely tribute. What I remember about Ralph is just how Roni put it– he had such a warmth and kind spirit. You couldn’t help but feel happier and have a little more spring in your step after talking with him.

  4. Posted by Lisa Lagasse

    Beautifully written, Bob. Ralph was indeed a warm and inspiring person with an easy smile and a sharp mind. He made a a huge mark on this world, both in his work and personhood.

  5. Posted by Nicolette Hahn Niman

    Thank you for writing this, Bob. Like so many others, my husband, Bill Niman, and I adored and respected Ralph both for his passionate dedication to making the world a better place and for being such a good and decent human. We will miss him greatly.

  6. Posted by Polly Walker

    What wonderful tributes from all – especially from Bob Martin.
    Ralph was such a positive and upbeat person and his enthusiasm was infectious. Ralph was always eager to help others and in a low key way used his personal struggle with weight to inspire others to do the same. And as already mentioned, this experience informed and propelled his advocacy for food system change at CLF and elsewhere. He will be missed by all who knew him. Rest in peace, Ralph.

  7. Posted by Polly Walker

    What wonderful tributes from all – especially from Bob Martin.
    Ralph was such a positive and upbeat person and his enthusiasm was infectious. Ralph was always eager to help others and in a low key way used his personal struggle with weight to inspire others to do the same. And as already mentioned, this experience informed and propelled his advocacy for food system change at CLF and elsewhere. He will be missed by all who knew him. Rest in peace, Ralph.

  8. Posted by Peggy Neu

    Thanks Bob for this beautiful remembrance. It brought back so many memories of working with Ralph in the early days of Healthy and Meatless Monday. His combination of intelligence, charm and enthusiasm got many early adopters on board and we always had fun whether on a road trip or attending a conference. We miss you Ralph.

  9. Posted by Timothy Cipriano

    This is a fantastic remembrance. I first met Ralph at a bar in U St in DC while I was there advocating for healthy school meals. We kept in touch over the years and then lost touch, now I know why.
    Ralph was a great guy, he did so much good, he will be missed.

  10. Posted by Jillian Fry

    Thank you for this lovely post, Bob.
    Looking at the pictures of Ralph, I can almost hear his voice and laugh. As others have said so well, he was a wonderful friend and colleague. I enjoyed being around him because of his enthusiasm and sense of humor. He is gone much too soon, but he touched many lives and made a positive impact with his life.

  11. Posted by Jared Margulies

    Ralph was an upstanding gentleman and had such a beautiful personality and character, he will be sorely missed.

  12. Raychel Santo

    Posted by Raychel Santo

    Thank you, Bob and all for this tribute. Ralph was the first person I met from CLF, and his enthusiastic response to my email asking whether there were ever any student research positions led me to start working there over 5 years ago! I had such a great time working with Ralph for a year and a half on the Healthy Mondays project. He took me on some of my first explorations through Baltimore, taught me a ton (what literature reviews were, how to write scientifically accurate pieces for public interest, and so much more), and of course, always perked up my day every time I came into the office. I’ll never forget his upbeat spirit and genuine passion. I’m so sad to see him go!

  13. Posted by Brent Kim

    While he was still at CLF, Ralph gave me a book, “A Field Guide to Cows.” In the dedication, he wrote, “To Brent, from Ralph. Don’t forget to go Meatless on Mondays.”

    Because of Ralph, and the work of others who shared his passion for a kinder and more just future, I made every day a Meatless Day.

    Thank you, Ralph. We miss you.

  14. Ralph was an amazing friend and a strong advocate for the work at the Franciscan Center in Baltimore. Ralph spent a lot of time here and helped the Center be the first soup kitchen in the country to adopt the ‘Meatless Monday’ program. Since then we have initiated several other healthy food programs, inspired by Ralph’s influence. I am extremely saddened to hear this information but I know that he is in a wonderful place being rewarded for all of the good that he did while on this earth. You will be missed my friend.

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