The winter holidays bring about a season of gratefulness and we at Feeding Florida appreciate every individual who helps us put food on the tables of Floridians year-round. During this season, we want to thank the incredible staff at our 12 food banks who help us make the mission of Feeding Florida come true each and every day.
From fundraising and communications to warehouse operations and trucking, every department of the food bank makes a big difference. How many job roles could a food bank really have? The short answer is more than you can imagine! Meet some of our hunger heroes and learn about how their position helps their food bank and the whole network fight hunger.
Regional Director of Catholic Charities, Florida Gateway Food Bank
As Regional Director of Catholic Charities, and Executive Director of Florida Gateway Food Bank, Suzanne’s role is to oversee, fundraise, and carry out all compliance officer duties. During a 550 School Thanksgiving Basket give away, one of the students helping bag baskets asked to speak to Suzanne. This young eighth grade girl said “Ms. Suzanne, I want to share with you last year my Daddy died in a horrible accident at his job just before Thanksgiving and we were selected to get a basket which was so needed. But this year I’m here giving back and volunteering, since our family is much better, and we thank you all for what you did- it means the world to all 6 of us.” Suzanne said, “Now I’m full tears of joy. And to think, this young lady is giving back and happy doing it!”
Vice President of Food Services at Second Harvest of Central Florida
Nancy and her team oversee the Second Harvest Culinary Training Program, which provides qualified, at-risk, and economically disadvantaged adults with the culinary and life skills training needed to pursue a sustainable career in the food industry. And this is all at no charge. The curriculum covers food safety and sanitation, knife skills, and the basic culinary foundations needed to successfully obtain an entry-level position in any food service establishment across the country. The life skills component of the program prepares students for work-readiness, focusing on the importance of appropriate work behavior, resumes and interviewing techniques, as well as household budgeting, stress relief, and time management. “I admire the bravery and perseverance of our students. They have been through challenges and have experienced many barriers, but they never give up,” says Nancy.
Volunteer Manager at Harry Chapin Food Bank
As Volunteer Manager for Harry Chapin Food Bank, Lori and her team are responsible for overseeing all volunteer events while assuring all processes and protocols are being followed for the highest quality food distributions. The key is for her team to oversee these events without the volunteers being aware of it. At Harry Chapin, volunteers make up the largest workforce at the food bank by handling all work that cannot be automated or mechanized, such as sorting produce and donated food to determine what is good or what needs to be discarded, breaking down bulk food into smaller portions, and enhancing the work done by the staff. “Working at the food bank I have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people and many have shared stories of need with me,” says Lori. “This area has so many hard-working people that just need a little help from time to time to get by or get through a change in season until their fortunes change.”
Mobile Market Specialist & Graduate of Culinary Academy at Treasure Coast Food Bank
Elizabeth is a graduate of the Culinary Training Academy at Treasure Coast Food Bank, which is a 12-week program that covers the fundamentals of culinary cooking in a professional setting. Graduates of the program are eligible to become accredited members of the American Culinary Federation. “During those twelve weeks I was introduced to a new passion of culinary cooking in a professional setting that ranged from knife skills, time/temperature safety, sauces, baking, presentation and much more,” says Elizabeth. “This opportunity opened doors for me and my classmates to join the hospitality industry with an advantage that I may have not had prior to the training academy.”
Driver & FreshForce Graduate at Feeding Tampa Bay
Jonathan was an experienced commercial vehicle driver of over 20 years when he was referred to join Feeding Tampa Bay’s Fresh Force driving program. This CDL training program allows students to achieve Class B licenses and gain hands-on experience during ride-alongs with existing Feeding Tampa Bay drivers. Graduates of this program are offered a wide variety of opportunities upon graduation, with many of them joining the Feeding Tampa Bay or Feeding Florida network team long-term, just like Jonathan. He said, “My favorite part about being a driver for Feeding Florida is that I get to be the face that brings food to people who need a little help. Following that is getting to operate a big truck, which is so much fun!”
Fresh Access Bucks Manager
Fresh Access Bucks (FAB) is a program of Feeding Florida which works with farmers markets and rural retailers to double SNAP dollars for purchases of Florida fruits and vegetables. As the Director of the FAB program, Katie oversees the day-to-day logistics of the program as well as fosters relationships with our local Florida growers and farmers markets. “Food insecurity can look like anyone in the state, so one of the most rewarding aspects of my job is getting to know people from all walks of life with all different reasons for being on SNAP,” says Katie.
Benefits Connection Program Manager for Second Harvest of Central Florida
Second Harvest of Central Florida is currently the only food bank within the Feeding Florida network that can register individuals for the SNAP program, and Erica has dedicated herself to this work. As the Benefits Connection Program Manager, Erica works with partnering agencies throughout several Central Florida counties to support customers by completing the SNAP application and DCF interview, as well as providing them support to submit necessary documentation for eligibility. “There are many times a person will come to one of our sites in crisis, not knowing how they are going to feed their family, and no clue how to start the SNAP application process. What we provide for our families is a sense of security,” says Erica. “They know they can count on our team to do everything in our power to get them assistance, and that is ultimately what our goal is.”
School Pantry Coordinator for Bread of the Mighty
As the School Pantry Coordinator, June and her team work personally with 18 schools within 5 different counties near the Gainesville area. While serving elementary, middle, and high schools, it is June’s responsibility to communicate with each school before deliveries, create personalized menus and acquire all necessary items to prepare each dish on the menu. “I often hear from our schools’ facilitators that if it wasn’t for the food provided in our pantries, a lot of the students wouldn’t have food to eat over the weekend,” says June on the importance of these school pantries.
Maria Jose “MJ” Horen
Chief Program Officer for All Faiths Food Bank
All Faiths Food Bank runs a number of programs, and as the Chief Program Officer, MJ is responsible for program development and implementation - including identifying and assessing gaps in current services, research, and program evaluation. One main aspect of her role is overseeing the DeSoto County Food and Resource Center, which is designed to not only increase access to nutritious food to individuals in DeSoto County, but also to serve as a resource in the community and connect individuals with other food access services and other social services. “Through our Backpack program we conduct surveys and focus groups to get feedback from children enrolled in the program. One of the kids stated that he shares the snacks from his backpack with his siblings as they don’t have much food at home,” says MJ of their Backpack program. “As a result of stories like this one, we make changes to our program and now give families the option to receive more than one backpack, if needed, to support their family during the weekends.”
Senior Programs Coordinator for Feeding South Florida
Feeding South Florida’s senior food programs are the USDA Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) that provides monthly nutritious food packages tailored to older adults who are 60 or above, meal delivery programs and the Senior Grocery Box Delivery Program, which are tailored to homebound seniors who have difficulties with transportation. One critical aspect of Trini’s role as the Senior Programs Coordinator is staying in constant communication with the seniors they are serving throughout South Florida. Each individual has a unique story and set of needs, and getting to know them personally helps Trini and her team tailor their programs to serve them better. “During Hispanic Heritage month, I attended a food distribution at a senior low-income housing apartment located in Hialeah, FL. It was on this day when a lovely Cuban woman said to me "Estoy agradecida por esta vida y por esta comida" which translates to "I am grateful for this life of mine and this food." She said this to me with a huge smile on her face as she spoke to me about her struggles with food insecurity, especially when migrating to this country. It's statements like this that make me proud of serving our Hispanic seniors and being a part of the Feeding South Florida team!”
Director of Marketing & Communications for Feeding Northeast Florida
Heather is a firm believer that the food bank is responsible for effectively communicating the needs of their neighbors experiencing food insecurity to law makers, community leaders, partners, the business community at large and the general population. “Communicating is more than writing words and making things look pretty,” says Heather on the importance of communication. “It’s understanding how people digest information, what’s most important to them, and then meeting them where they are to inspire action. I feel blessed to share and amplify stories of strength and perseverance.”
Community Engagement & Advocacy Manager for Feeding the Gulf Coast
Kyle’s team is responsible for developing resources such as food drives, volunteers, monetary support (“food, feet, funds”) to make their mission possible. Engaging the community in their mission, educating audiences about hunger in their community, and assisting in funding proposals and donor relations are also a part of his job. “Growing up in a rural area, food pantries were not something I knew existed,” said Kyle on his personal testimony about hunger. “There are so many families having to make difficult decisions, like mine did. It’s imperative that we are able to be a lifeline to turn hunger to hope.”
Director of Public Policy & Community for Feeding a Northeast Florida
“This position constantly pushes me to learn and grow each day,” said Laureen about her responsibilities at the food bank. Her primary role is to develop key partnerships within the North Florida region to help end hunger, especially for children. A great example of this is co-hosting partnership meetings for Giving Closet, so that schools and agencies are able to be connected with food resources for their children. She also works tirelessly to build coalitions and connect with policy groups that are all seeking to understand the root causes of hunger and better the lives of children and families.
Procurement Manager for Feeding Tampa Bay
The procurement team at Feeding Tampa Bay is responsible for bringing in nearly two million pounds of food each week. They focus on two main aspects: operations and donor development. Along with securing food donations, the outreach this team does helps further Feeding Tampa Bay’s programs by raising awareness of their mission, educating donors in the food industry, and creating long-lasting partnerships. “I personally believe every person wants to make a difference and has the capability to do so,” says Joyce. “They may not know how. Our job is to bring more advocates to the forefront and empower them to make change. Together, we can make our world a better place, one meal at a time.”
Warehouse Manager at Second Harvest of the Big Bend
Kenny’s main responsibility is to oversee more than one million pounds of product procured and distributed each month. One unexpected part of Kenny’s role is managing the safety program of the warehouse to ensure the wellbeing of their staff, volunteers, donors and vendors. “I’ve learned firsthand that hunger is real and it does not discriminate, which is why I’m thankful to work for Second Harvest to help engage, feed and educate our community,” says Kenny of his role within the Feeding Florida network.