Years in current role: 7
What was your biggest success in 2021?
We opened the Foodlink Community Café in the Downtown Library. The Cafe provides an additional training ground for our culinary apprentices, while providing delicious food through a “pay-it-forward” concept that aims to bring people together and nourish everyone with dignity. Foodlink’s Curbside Market also became the nation’s first ever Mobile Market to accept WIC benefits, which has a chance to be transformational in improving the nutrition of mothers and their children. Both of these new ventures reflected the way Foodlink lives up to our values and mission, innovating even as we continued to respond to the pandemic.
What is your biggest takeaway from dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic?
We tend to think of nonprofits as performing direct acts of charity for individuals, but nonprofits like Foodlink and so many others are just as often on the front lines, leading complex emergency response efforts, serving as hubs of resources and communication for entire regions, and driving systemic change. COVID-19 shined a light on how everyone — especially the government — has a stake in the health and efficacy of this sector. I know that our community understands this; I will forever be in awe of how so many people responded with incredible generosity, demonstrating their belief and trust in our work.
If time were no issue, what would you do to help the community that you aren’t already doing?
I’m a lifelong city (Charlotte neighborhood) resident, and the issue of educational disparities in our region is what brought me to Foodlink 13 years ago. I wanted to make an impact and realized I had an opportunity to do so by focusing first on what was (or wasn’t) on kids’ plates. I’m still deeply troubled by the largely segregated schools in our county, and the inequities in funding and educational outcomes. At Foodlink, we’ve tried to do our part by being a good partner to schools — but that alone can’t drive the transformation that’s needed. If time wasn’t an issue, I would be more deeply engaged in our education system.