[00:00:16] Speaker A: Welcome back to just a bite It's Sarah here.
Oh, man, this episode is a bittersweet one. During this episode, I speak with Jory and Lisa about the leadership transition that is happening here at the Ohio Association of Food Banks.
After more than 20 years as the leader of the Ohio Association of Food Banks, lisa Hamler Fuget is retiring.
She has been a tireless advocate for the most vulnerable and a compassionate mentor to many. It is so sad to see her go, but retirement is so well deserved, taking her place as a leader that our listeners know well jory Novotny. Jory helped get this podcast off the ground, among many other things, in her role as director of External Affairs and most recently, her role as Chief of Staff. She is someone who has embodied our mission at the food banks to serve the line and most importantly, to end the line. She'll be laser focused on not just food insecurity, but also addressing the root causes throughout her tenure as executive director.
I thought the Association's anniversary would be a great day to release this episode, to honor two leaders who have contributed so much to the Ohio Association of Food Banks and to celebrate a new chapter in the organization's history. I hope you enjoy. Oh, and make sure that you listen until the very end. For a few surprises, take a listen.
Hi, Lisa. Hi, Jory.
I just want to start off with the recognition that this feels really surreal to be sitting in front of both of you and having this conversation. I know that Lisa has been planning on passing the torch for a few years now and that this transition has been in the works for many months. But these past few weeks have really made it real that a chapter is closing and a new one is starting. So I just want to name that for all of us and our listeners and kind of shed some light on the context in which this conversation is happening.
For any listeners who do not know, the Ohio Association of Food Banks has been undergoing a leadership transition over the past few months. In July, the Association's longtime executive director, Lisa Hamler Fuget, had announced that she is retiring after more than 20 years of service in that role.
In that same announcement, the board named Jory Novotny as the Association's new executive director after being a part of the organization in critical roles for 13 years. It is the definition of bittersweet to know that Lisa will be stepping aside to enjoy retirement, spend time with family, and volunteer in different capacities, and that Jory will be a strong leader focused on the interconnectedness of food insecurity, poverty, equity, and social justice. How are you both feeling in this moment? A sense of relief? Sadness? Excitement for what's to come? All of the above.
I'd say all of the above, Sarah, and thank you for your time and your leadership. To do this podcast and bring a little bit of what happens at the association and through our members. To our listeners, I would say it's a combination of everything but a sense of relief that I believe that the association is in better hands.
It has a stronger foundation than it's ever had, both from a resource standpoint, but also with Jory's leadership and the commitment of the association staff here. They're poised to take the association and our members to the next level in our efforts to fight hunger and food insecurity in the state.
Yeah, I'm feeling all the feelings and of course humbled for the opportunity that I have. But most of my feelings right now are kind of deeply mired and in the bittersweet, slow burn goodbye with someone who's been my mentor and teacher for many years and I'm really extraordinarily just so grateful for the real legacy that Lisa has built in terms of first leading with values. She just set us up to be an organization that is expected and counted on to be value based leaders and messengers. And that's something that is really critical and embedded in all of us and how we do our work. And I'm so deeply grateful for that. And of course, just a legacy of reputational and operational excellence. So I'd be lying if I didn't also say that I'm intimidated to follow in what many, many people have shared our big shoes to fill. So all the feelings? Yes, all the feelings. I know that we were talking before we started recording that there are some good memories and some bad ones just with how long the association has been established.
To both of you, what are some of your favorite memories over the years?
Working with and on behalf of twelve real thought leaders as our board members, food bank directors who never signed on when they began their careers to be responsible, in many cases, of feeding one in six Ohioans, starting with really humble roots and building organizations, multimillion dollar nonprofit organizations that are doing everything that they possibly can to get the most basic of all human need.
And that's food to the people. Our hungry friends and neighbors. But through working with and on behalf of those directors, always being really innovative and I think that those have been some of the most exciting things as an association, we have always been far ahead of the curve. So thinking about what we have been able to accomplish and looking back literally in welfare reform and knowing that what was coming down on us in 1996 as a network and the hundreds of millions of dollars that were going to be cut out of the food stamp program at the time. That being able to sit down and really think about what the future looked like and the creation of premier programs that we rely on now for one out of every four meals that we provide through the Ohio Food Program and Agriculture Clearance program. But that being said, always having our eye to the future, whether it was on where food came from, our partnerships with farmers, growers and commodity producers, bringing the public sector along, working with five different administrations and 14 general assemblies, that everybody wants to be on the winning team, that's what I have found.
So if there is an opportunity to work to and towards a common goal, that's what we have been able to achieve. And I know that as a result of that and the programs that we have brought to the state of Ohio, some were well before their time, that we have made a difference in the lives of so many Ohioans and hopefully planted that seed for generations to come.
The kid that stood in the food pantry line as a youth will be the leaders of tomorrow.
So it's hard to believe that started all of this in 1996 and here I am today. It'd be hard to believe that it hadn't been that long with the wealth of knowledge that you carry around with you. And I can't remember you ever not having that wealth of knowledge. And I've known you and worked closely with you for about half of that time that span.
I've been excited to be a part of swearing in years of AmeriCorps members after getting to serve as an AmeriCorps vista myself, and getting to see those members have an impact on our work and how we look toward the future, like you said. And also many of them to join our network, whether on our team or with our food banks and agencies as team members has been really cool. I have to share a couple of special Lisa memories in particular. I don't even know if she'll recall this, but years ago we were driving down to ou meandering our way. I am totally directionally challenged and Lisa is not. If you've ever followed her around the State House halls, you know, she is not directionally challenged and I am. So hopefully I can peel that somehow out of her brain. But I was driving us down to Southeast Ohio and I completely missed the exit. And this was in the early days of GPS, I think that we had printed map quest directions and we had to have driven a complete hour past where we were supposed to be. Showed up miserably late, but we had a good old time getting lost together.
And I also fondly remember Elisa signing a proclamation with then Governor Kasich. We were all decked out in our orange and she made a real splash, as she always does, and got the special pen to walk away from, right? Everyone wanted that pen to take with them, but she's of course gathered a lot of special mementos and awards and achievements over her years that are well deserved. So another was really special to get to see her inducted into the Agricultural Hall of fame last year. That was really special to get to see her honored in that know, most of the time it's the day to day BS we do together to stay on top of what's the latest, what's going on, keeping things flowing and also keeping our heads up on what's coming next. And sure, as you said, Sarah, some of the memories are tough only because we knew that people were suffering and we wanted to be able to do more than we could in the moment.
So we always try to forge ahead in that respect, I think. So when I think of those moments, I think that we come together as a team and try to do the next right thing right.
And I'm proud of that. I'm proud to have learned from someone who's committed to that way of doing work.
Thanks, Jory. It's always about food first. And I think that in our ability to grow the organization and grow programs and grow the leadership, we were always focused on what the core mission has been, which is to be able to provide enough food to feed, as I said, our hungry friends and neighbors. So that being part of the core focus. Our Ohio Food program and agriculture clearance program that I said now provides one out of every four meals that we distribute. But through 28 years, that's been 1.75 billion meals to hungry Ohioans. And that's been made possible through the public private partnership with the Ohio General Assembly and all of those governors. And the first governor that really started the support of food banks was then Governor Voynovich at the time.
And he was the governor when we passed welfare reform in 1996 that ended that 60 year entitlement for basic support programs for poor families and their kids. So from that came a different way of thinking. Once we realized where food came from, which oh, gosh, it comes from Ohio farmers and growers. And we were able to capture that cosmetically challenged fruits and vegetables that had no market value, get those into the network. Then we really started to make the connection that access to healthy, wholesome food not only allowed people to thrive, but it also meant better health for them, especially those that were suffering from diet related diseases. So as part of that, when the governor then became the senator, the US. Senator, he reached out and said, I want you to be more involved in connecting people to benefits. And at the time we had, just as a nation, passed the first prescription drug benefit under Medicare, and that was in 2003, the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement Modernization Act. And that allowed seniors who we all saw standing in our food lines, who were making those trade offs between food and life sustaining medication, that we were able to mobilize around people who were making those trade offs to educate our food pantries and our soup kitchens and our volunteers to talk about this new program that was coming and help connect seniors to that part D drug benefit program. That was really the journey that started our benefits outreach and access here at the association. And that's how Jory came to the association. When we recognized that we needed more boots on the ground and formalized our large statewide partnership with the Corporation on national and Community Service, or Vistas Volunteers in Service to America, our AmeriCorps, we were able to recruit some. Of the best and the brightest to do a commitment of one year of service. And they got to go out and do outreach and organizing and mobilization again through the Medicare Part D program. But then that launched us into an opportunity to think differently about how benefits were delivered to people. And that started our journey of helping the state of Ohio to modernize how people were able to access work, support programs, health care, educational benefits, through the implementation of the Ohio Benefit Bank. And I look across the network today, and a lot of those AmeriCorps Vista members who maybe were still in college or were recent college graduates who signed on to make a commitment to be the change agents or what I called the boots on the ground, have now become the leaders of our nonprofit organizations, leadership at food banks. And now Jory is moving on as the director of the Ohio Association of Food Banks. So we've come a long way in a short amount of time, but again, because of a commitment, a vision, and the opportunity to see what life changing roles you can have, it's been a great opportunity. And again, you learn a lot working on the front lines every day.
If you want one more lighthearted memory.
Lisa is someone who always takes the time every year, many times throughout the year. But every year at the end of the year, when we all get together for a holiday party to celebrate what we did together and what we accomplished and to take it easy and take a little break, she throws a wonderful party and she gets these very thoughtful handmade bags together for all of us with these sweet gifts. And you can just see how she never stops thinking about the work. She never stops thinking about the people doing the work with her.
I just think it's rare. And it's been fun. It's just been really special to get to party together. And so that's also something I'm going to have to make sure to carry on. But it speaks to her values.
I'm sure she was putting together those gift baskets while streaming C Span or some kind of talking head, because she's a political junkie. And you can always count on getting the latest breaking news from Lisa, which has been fun.
Yeah, she's our news junkie.
Always getting emails about the latest at the we hours. No, you don't need X or Twitter or whatever we're calling it. Because Lisa has her finger on the pulse that I will say that the fact that through the leadership of the association and as we have embraced technology.
I think I shared a story earlier today about having come into the workforce with none of this technology and how we used to do things where we didn't even have computers. And then I remember configuring the first computer at another nonprofit or organization that I work with and you would have to sign up to use it anyway, that the staff have kept me away from social media per se.
So a lot of people know you're not on Facebook, you're not on Twitter, you don't do this stuff. And the joke is that they were too afraid of what I might tweet in one of those late night tirades. So I have gotten this far in my life. So I don't think that you will see me tuning in on a Facebook or a Twitter or an ex or whatever that is. I have enough to do with just answering emails.
When you think about so what are you going to miss most?
I will tell you that what I won't miss is endless streams of emails that work is not email.
And I think that's the big thing in encouraging people to maybe step away from that technology and get back out into the communities and really have those conversations with folks. Because you're going to learn a lot if you just walk a mile in the shoes of somebody mean. Yeah, that even goes to so many times I'm thinking about just there's some late breaking something that happens in our world or that's impacting people facing hunger. And I get together a little press statement and go over into Lisa's office with our printed copy. And truly, I'm going to miss just going through handwritten notes together about how to get this message just right so that it speaks to our values and gets across what people in power need to hear. And it's just those moments that in some they make me emotional thinking back on them. You're going to be great. I mean, you are absolutely going to be great because things are going to change. They'll continue to change as they always do, but just never lose sight of the power of the people and your commitment. People know if you're committed to a cause, they want to be part of the solution. So always give people an opportunity to do the right thing.
There will be some that won't, but I'm sure that through your continued determination, the power of the network and being able to mobilize people, you'll get them to at least get out of the way and allow you to achieve what you need to achieve. But again, it's really important as well that you have a good vision, a good insight into this is that the people with lived experience need to be at that table. And I'm really excited by the work that you both are doing to make sure that those voices are front and center when we talk about what the needs are, we can't leave anybody behind. Well said. Absolutely.
Jory, you have held various positions at Oaf that were critical to the programs and organizations we represent. Most recently the Director of External Affairs and then Chief of Staff. Jory, what is your greatest achievement over the past 13 years?
Oh, gosh, I can't take claim to any achievement as being my own because I really view all the roles I've gotten to have here as roles in support of the mission and in support of the programs and support of the team.
Of course, what comes to mind when you ask me that right away is what we lived through a few years ago. So for me, the personal accomplishment of the early days of the COVID-19 Pandemic and working with our board of directors and our network of food banks on late night and early morning and weekend work getting the Ohio National guard deployed, being in communication with Major General Harris and the administration with our food banks in a crisis unlike anything we had ever experienced. And it was really trial by fire, to be honest. And I think back on that really fondly with a lot of pride because I was a newer mom.
Let's see, my son was about 18 months old at the time. And like all of us who lived through it and experienced it in all kinds of different ways, it was just you had no other choice but to do it right. And it felt really meaningful to be part of something that meant we were responding. We were going to make a difference. We were going to help to protect people from hunger and hardship and just to be a really small part of that will always stick with me and I think did a lot to help me grow into myself as a leader personally. So that's something I will always keep with me.
And I guess I'll just add that throughout my years here, what I've tried to do is be in support of our team. So there's been many instances where I've had the opportunity, if someone's on parental leave or they're on medical leave, to care for themselves or for a loved one, and I get to step in for six weeks or twelve weeks and cover some of their work. If we're in transition with a role here or there someone going on for a bigger and better opportunity elsewhere, kind of getting exposed to all the things that we do. And that really helped me to gain a deeper sense of all the day to day, amazing stuff that our teams have to do and the kind of the specialty that they need to carry and the technical expertise that they have developed in administering.
We do a lot of complex work. We are not your mom and pop shop. We are working in complex federal and state contracting and cooperative agreement with public and private partners and really involved in a lot of depth of policy and program implementation. And it's been really cool to get to live for a little while in other people's shoes and see how they operate. And I've been grateful for that opportunity because I don't think that I'd have the sense of what the association is about and what we are to people and to organizations that I do because of that.
Yeah, I got to say, Sarah and I said this at the beginning, but I just want to reiterate again, the association, through the leadership of our food bank directors have always again, been real visionaries. And I always felt like we were at least one step ahead of where trends were happening. And Jory talked about the National Guard, but really kind of the precursor to that was the Great Recession. So what Ohioans had just really had gotten back economically. They were getting back after ten lost years of the Great Recession. And through that Great Recession, we were able in 2007 to bring the Ohio Benefit Bank to the state of Ohio, which was the first internet based application assistance program of its kind. It became the largest direct assistance program ever operated in the nation. I mean, we were that far ahead and it really started to revolutionize the way state agencies did their work, not only from a technology standpoint, but that it had to go outside of that standard brick and mortar. Everybody knows where the welfare office is in every county, but how could we deliver services through our trusted nonprofit and faith based organizations, the food pantries, the soup kitchens and the homeless shelter. So when we began to bring the Ohio Benefit Bank to the state of Ohio, and this was a part of other state and federal agencies wanting to be on the winning team and through that duration, we had eight state agencies and four federal agencies that had their programs on this platform. So over those ten years of operating the program and unfortunately, it ended the year before COVID hit because the state had implemented its own online system, which they're still struggling with today, I might add.
So we had just seen Ohioans who had just clawed their way back through various work support programs, health care benefits, educational opportunities, Snap benefits or food stamp benefits, tax credits and then that February.
And the Governor I want to say that Governor Duine's leadership being the first governor to really see that we were in unchartered waters as this pandemic. We didn't know what it was, but it was starting to kill people and make others really sick. They shut down the entire state. And all those people that had just clawed their way back economically were the ones that lost their jobs again.
And a million Ohioans literally lost their job. It just felt like overnight. We knew we were going to be in trouble. Absolutely. We knew we were going to be in trouble when the pandemic hit. And to see businesses close, everything just came to a screeching halt. And our agencies knew that their friends and neighbors were going to need their support more than ever. And it was those elderly volunteers who didn't. They just knew that this pandemic, this thing called COVID, affected seniors or persons in compromised health situations. But they went in, they continued to run those agencies. The food bank staff came in to run the food banks. And we knew that if we did not get the help of the National Guard, those citizen soldiers, we weren't going to be able to do it. And joy's. Right. I mean, that plan came together in a matter of a couple of weeks.
The governor was the first governor to step forward with the deployment of not only the National Guard, but all of their assets, the trucks, the forklifts. And it was like drinking out of a fire hose. But we never missed a beat. It helped fortify the agencies. It fortified the food banks and the food bank staffs. And the fact that we were able to manage through that and garner additional resources as well, I would hope, looking back, was a once in a lifetime experience. But we know that it's not. I think it's what's to come. And I've said this before. I think that the challenge now under Jory's leadership and the leadership of the food banks and the nonprofits on whole. But government is being able to build in the redundancies in our systems to make sure that we're hardened off for the next whatever it is, whether it's an economic downturn, whether it's a changing climate, whether it's a massive disruption that happens within our economy that could quickly displace people and their ability to meet their basic needs. So again, disaster preparedness is going to be really critical in the future, including our food systems.
Absolutely. I think that's a great transition to lisa, I want to know what you're most proud of over the past 20 plus years. I know that there were many crises that you had had to lead the organization and our food banks through during your tenure.
So what are you the most proud of?
The support that we have received from not only our directors, our elected leaders, individuals who are out there volunteering to give their time, their talent, their treasure, the staff of the food banks, all of the food pantry and soup kitchens that mean literally hundreds of thousands of people that do this work every day.
Their continued support has been critical to our ability to do what we do, but more importantly, in trusting us, that when we see a problem, that we're solutions oriented people.
And a lot of times people would say, you're getting out in front of the food banks. You're getting out in front of your directors. But I've always believed that part of being solutions oriented means that don't look away from something that may frighten you, but to really embrace it, whether it's a new program, a new way of addressing a policy challenge, the benefit bank was certainly one of them. The work that we have done around health care, and again, that goes back to if you walk the line and you listen to what people tell you are the reasons that they are standing in the food lines, you'll quickly know what those solutions are that they're going to need to move them to economic self sufficiency. So again, always being on the lookout for what those opportunities are and being now involved with the healthcare navigator for the second time, we were the lead navigator under the Affordable Care Act. But knowing that if we can help stabilize people with chronic or acute conditions, get them connected to healthcare and on a path to wellness, that really is a game changer. And I remember in the early years of the benefit bank and helping to connect people, many who worked every day but worked for employers that didn't provide health care coverage for one reason or the other, and seeing that these are life changing experiences, including one father I'll never forget this. A single father of two teenage girls who had not seen a doctor in more than ten years. And we were able to get him health care. And quickly after that, they found that he had heart failure and working with him and being able to get a good cardiologist, he was a candidate for a heart replacement and it changed his life.
He would have passed and left two teenage daughters by themselves. But again, and he's thriving, tax paying member of society. Again.
The other, I think, making big changes, trying to modernize really complicated federal programs and get people connected to those nutrition assistance programs, whether it be through the Snap program, child nutrition programs. We've made some big progress on child nutrition. The elimination of reduced priced meals, I think in this last budget is a really great start.
We need to do more.
And I look forward in my retirement to continue some of that advocacy around, making sure that the greatest generation, who we see now standing in our food lines in numbers that we have never experienced before, can get their basic food needs met through effective programs and public policy.
Jory, you have been leading the organization for about four months now. And I know you don't believe me, but you have done it with grace and compassion, and that has really set the tone for your tenure as executive director.
What is your vision for the organization? Where would you want to lead us in, say, ten years?
Thanks, Sarah. Thank you for saying that.
It's been the quickest four months and the longest four months of my life. I can say. That and it motivates me. And I'm thrilled for the opportunity. And I think first I would say that we are part of a rapidly changing landscape and a rapidly changing world. And to Lisa's point, our population here in Ohio is changing and aging. And the challenges that will come in our local and state economies over the next ten years are not those that have come over the past ten or the past 20. So I'm really looking forward to being a part of the solutions, being at the table on what are the root causes. And a lot of what Lisa talked about, what we've been about for our entire existence as an organization, is about knowing that, yes, we absolutely have a responsibility, first and foremost to feed the line today because no person should ever have to experience hunger. And also we have an extraordinary responsibility to be a part of solving for why they're at risk of experiencing hunger in the first place and also for mitigating the negative impacts of that brush up with hunger, of that experience with food insecurity, on their health and on their wellness and on their future economic and family well being.
So we have a changing world, we have a changing environment, we have a changing food supply chain. We have to be a part of getting folks to talk and think about how food security is national security.
Food security is something that we could be talking very differently about food security ten years from now than we are now.
We tend to think of food security in terms of affordability. We have conversations about accessibility. We're getting better at talking about responsive food security, food sovereignty.
And there's also, I think, an extraordinary need for us to talk about that. We, every one of us, regardless of our ability to afford food, depend on a resilient food supply chain. And if we're not part of strengthening and maintaining a resilient food supply chain and solving for the issues we don't even quite see coming, and being part of discussions around how climate change is impacting our food supply and our farming partners and how the economics of here we are in 2023 and beyond of our local food economies. Where do we buy our food? How do we ship and move our food?
Are we engaging in just in time? Is that working for where is the food waste? So we have to be a part of and a leader in a bigger, broader discussion around a secure food supply for every person. And I guess what we have to make sure we don't lose sight of, I think is really important is that we do so with an equity driven mindset that we never, ever lose sight or fail to root every one of those conversations in the people most impacted by those policies, by those discussions. So I think I want us to be flexible and adaptable and ready to be at the table to change how we're doing things if we need to, to talk about how we, as a state, as a country, as a world, need to talk about food and economic security differently and just to stay on the cutting edge. Right. That's what we need to be about because we will never make any progress on shortening the line if we aren't leading on all those other conversations.
Yeah, I think taking a more holistic approach and thinking more broadly about food security is something that really needs to be pushed and that we need to be leaders on. So that's great. What are you the most excited about in the future?
What's great about what you just said is that we already have a long standing reputation for doing exactly what I'm talking about. So this isn't not some new, fresh concept. This is what we are about, deep in our roots and just proud to carry that torch into the next decade.
And when I think about the future, I think that we know that food is medicine and we want to really help our network of food banks and hunger relief providers be viewed and treated as such, as a really important component of a healthcare landscape. And for me, that means not only access to nutritious, responsive wholesome foods that can help either prevent diet related disease or better manage diet related disease, but also thinking about how much of an impact food security has on overall well being, including mental health.
We talked to so many people who express how additional access to Snap benefits, for example, during the pandemic not only allowed them to purchase the whole grain breads that they want and that their doctors want them consuming the lean proteins, all the things that they can't necessarily afford without those extra benefits, but also what it did to free them of stigma, to free them of worry, to free them of anxiety, to let them see beyond today.
Right. To let them see beyond today to what can come better for them, what they can hope for, what they can do more of. When we hear about what advanced expanded child tax credits did, like a family getting to enroll their kid in a basketball camp that they've always wanted to do but haven't had the money to spare because they didn't have to worry about food today. They got to think and dream. So I'm excited about trying to be a part of making those big and impactful changes in our policy and program landscape so that we can really think about people as whole people, drive, give them access to the dignity that they deserve. Absolutely. That was so well said.
Lisa, what advice do you have for Jory and the staff at the association? What is one thing that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?
One thing. I hope you have about ten things. I'll take ten. Yeah. It's like, oh, just get to the point.
No, I guess discern quickly and act or you're going to be lost.
Don't second guess yourself. I think is the most important thing.
You know what needs to be done. And if rely on the leadership that you have within the board, the directors hire good people and people that have the same commitment and vision that you do. As I said, people want to be a part of a winning team. So you're going to be making those investments in folks. And what Jory's just laid out as being the solution. We have to be more solutions oriented, more holistic in our approach, whether it's our food systems, but also our policy, policy solutions government that helps all people, not just some.
There's always going to be more work to be done.
Make sure that you have a balance of life, whether it is a work life balance. We talked about this this morning when you're only sleeping 4 hours a night because you wake up in a panic of what did I forget?
Keep a notebook beside your bed so when you wake up and you can jot those notes down, but give yourself grace for sure and make it fun. And you certainly are able to make it fun. People want to work at a place where they're feeling like they're going to have a real impact and spend the time nurturing those relationships.
Certainly not only staff, our partners, our supporters, all of our vendors, but also those state agency folks. And I don't want to leave those behind.
Most of the work that we have been able to do here at the association is because we were entrusted by our elected leaders, by the administration, but more importantly, all of the wonderful state and federal folks that entrust assets and resources in us to be able to carry out our programs. And we've launched some new programs in the past couple of years that I'm really excited about that are going to, I think, bring deeper partnerships, certainly with our local food purchase cooperative agreement, more of our state agencies, more of those dedicated public servants that are going to work more closely with us. And again, never forget that hunger looks a whole lot like you and me and it lives just six doors down. And never forget, never forget that hunger can affect anyone and it is the one thing that we have to do to make sure that nobody goes hungry. We have the resources, we just have to have the and muster the political will.
I know you talked about this a little bit a couple of minutes ago about how you're looking forward to taking up some volunteer opportunities in your retirement, particularly focused on older adult hunger and all of the situations that they're facing. What are you excited to do in retirement? Not just what you're thinking about in terms of volunteering and spending your time that way, but also what you're looking forward to do with family or friends.
You know, she's an award winning gardener these days. So just know that listeners I don't think I'll be beekeeping.
We are an aging state. We've talked about this. I think that a lot of the challenges that we've heard, a lot coming out of the pandemic about workforce issues.
There are a lot of folks, I think, like me, who are probably at their prime, who are exiting the workforce because we have other commitments, including family commitments. I have elderly parents who need support, who are not in good health. And we've known for a very long time, not only in the role that we have here at the association, but we have seen a grain not only of the volunteer base that allow us to do what we do. Within the Hunger Relief Network a changing dynamic of the faith community, the social justice community that did so much of this work, but more and more people who are exiting the workforce to take care of again elderly parents and relatives, which I'll be doing, getting them stabilized. But through that work, I also see where our programs and our policies and are not well placed now in the state or the nation to deal with this aging of our society. And how do we allow people to the greatest generation and I'll continue to say the greatest generation who built the country that we live in, to be able to age with a little bit of pride and dignity in their golden years and not be forced into nursing homes because we don't have those community support. So I have been a witness throughout my career to see disproportionately large amounts of public money going into one solution and that's not where we need to be right now. We need to make sure that the state resources, our federal resources, are being invested in home and community based services so people can continue to be engaged in the workforce and go to work. We can make sure that our elderly parents have the supports that they need and can age in place. And I'm going to be spending some time advocating on behalf of making those investments and those shifts into a better balance, I think, in the state. And food security is going to be first and foremost, I want seniors being able to stand in grocery store checkout lines instead of food pantry and soup kitchen lines, so you may see me with a red jacket on, walking around the halls of the General Assembly being unfettered to say what I want to say about investments. But I will be here for whatever you need and I know that you are in wonderful, capable hands and are going to achieve wonderful things here at the association. I'm going to miss you all.
Yeah, she forgot to mention that she'll be hanging out with me because she won't be my boss any longer. So now I get to have a good time with if. For those of you that don't know, Jory and I are pretty much polar opposites and I think that that's why we have worked and work really well together, because she has the ability to make us look like real winners when we're a little on the ragged edge. She is extremely organized and succinct, but like I said, I've never been one for meetings. I hope she doesn't meeting herself to death and over scheduling.
And I give all the credit, absolutely all the credit to our directors and our board for choosing Jory to lead the organization into the future and having that trust and commitment in her that I have.
Because you guys are going to achieve great things and hopefully we'll start to see some real changes happening in more investments.
But if you're looking for an opportunity to be a part of a solutions driven team, I would encourage you to consider a career here at the association under Jory's leadership and be part of our team.
Oh, you're too much. You're too good to us.
And we're not polar opposites in that we both are quick to tear. So I'm doing everything in my power to stay cool and calm for our podcast.
Knowing that it's not goodbye, it's see you later, helps a lot with that.
You can't take the rabble rouser out of the rabble rouser, so we would expect nothing less. Yeah, but you're going to get rid of all that paper, too.
Oh, any other closing thoughts before we leave?
Yeah, I've said this in a few different places, but I will say it for our listeners to hear that it is just a very rare person, a very rare heart, a very rare leader who can bring about the values driven change that you have over your incredible career. And I do. Since the first day I got to see you on stage, blowing people's minds how lucky I've been and how lucky all of us have been to learn from you and see you in action. And I'll tell you that these past four months, I've learned what I didn't know about how hard it is to be at the top. It's lonely at the top of that. Not necessarily at the top of an.org chart, but responsible for the weight of millions of hungry Ohioans who are counting on us to do right by them, and food banks who are under extraordinary pressure to do right by their communities and who need our help and our I just I grow in admiration for what you've achieved every day. And I'm sure that's only going to increase.
So there's no way that I could say thank you and express the gratitude for me, of course, because you mean so much to me as a mentor. But for millions of people that will never know your name, that have you to think truly and that's not hyperbole so now I'm crying, y'all.
Well, thank you. Thank you, Jory.
It's all of us together and I think that's been the wonderful part, is that being on a team of people that are committed, who have the same vision and courage to do what they know needs to be done.
Everybody's going to be great and you're going to do things different, you're going to do things better and bigger because you know what needs to be done.
Never waver in your convictions and that there will be dark times for sure, but I hope that you take from that that you just need to dig a little deeper, organize a little harder, and you're never alone.
You're never alone in the work that you do.
So carry on, my dear friend.
You will be great. And again, just encourage folks to, if you're not involved, get involved.
If you have an extra hour, give an extra hour and you can do it locally. As I said, if we just show up, if we speak out and we're part of the solution instead of part of the problem, we can make big changes.
And you're going to do that joy, along with the great team here, Sarah and all of the leadership of the association. So carry on, my dear friend, and do good. What a great way to end. I want to thank you both so much for talking with me about this.
Thank you, Sarah. Thanks, Sarah.
Here in Southeast Ohio, it's difficult to imagine what our communities would look like without Lisa's work. In 2022 alone, ofpacp represented almost a quarter of the food we distributed in our ten county service area. I wonder how many pounds have been distributed since the program's inception? Billions.
When I went to my first Feeding America Conference back in 2018, someone asked me what food bank I was from. I said Southeast Ohio. We were very clearly in different food bank leagues, but they made time to let me know how impressive our state association is. Under her leadership, Oaf has set the bar. Whether we're talking about the core food programs, COVID relief funding, benefits, outreach, or her fearless advocacy work, lisa's act will be a tough one to follow. And there's no one better suited to do just that than Jory. She's smart, thoughtful, pragmatic, and has that knack for being able to boil down a lot of information into easily digestible talking points. I have so much respect for Jory and I'm excited to see the mark she makes on this amazing organization to see what her legacy will be.
Hi, everybody. Kristen here from the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. Lisa, thank you so much for your incredible leadership over the years, over the decades, advocating on behalf of our Ohio food banks, of our thousands of partner agencies, and of course, the millions of Ohio residents who've been served. Your impact is absolutely incredible.
I will think of you every time we're distributing fresh produce through the Ohio Agricultural clearance program.
We're so proud of the nutritional value of the food that we're able to distribute in Northeast Ohio. And without a doubt, your work to grow the agricultural clearance program has made our work in that space possible. Your impact is statewide. Your impact is nationwide, and millions and millions of people are healthier for it. Jory, you're such a wonderful supporter and partner in our work.
I'm so excited to see where you lead the association in the future.
Working with you has been an absolute pleasure. I know it will continue to be. Thanks for being a champion for each and every food bank in our state and a Rockstar partner. So much good work ahead of us. I want to thank Lisa for everything that she has done on behalf of all the people in Ohio that needed help with food. She has been a stalwart in pushing for issues in this community. She knows the state budget better than anybody else in the state house and has been a champion of fighting for those that don't have enough that need the help in this community across this state. And I wish her the best as she continues on her journey and calling attention to the issues of seniors and the care that they need.
Jewelry is a great person who I think learned under lisa has understood food banking from her time in Akron and she will be somebody that I'm going to be looking forward to working side by side with as we continue to champion for those that don't have enough in this community across this entire state. So can't thank them both enough. Transition should be seamless, has been seamless, and Lisa earns every accolade credit she can get because of what she did for so many amongst us. Thank you, Lisa, and I look forward to working with you. Tori lisa has been a phenomenal leader and a support for our organization, the Food Bank Inc. The role model she is. Her voice and advocacy is unparalleled and the food provided to our food bank over the years are a direct result of her leadership. Lisa, my friend, when you listen to this, know that I have learned so much from you, sending love and light and gratitude beyond measure. Enjoy my friend.
Joy's leadership at the Ohio Association of Food Banks over the last 13 years has well equipped her to lead the association into the future. Jory is an advocate and a passionate force for hunger relief in our state. We know that Oaf and our Twelve Food Bank strong network is in great hands.
Rock on. Oaf.
Hello. This is Juanita Burton over at Middlehighle Food Collective, and I'm the Director of Benefits and Customer Outreach. So I've worked quite a bit with Lisa and Jury. I think of the first time I actually met Lisa. We were in a meeting and I remember thinking, boy, I'm so glad she is on our side all her passion and knowledge and inspiration and definitely advocating for all the individuals we serve. I would just like to say thank you for everything you've done, Lisa, and I'm so glad that you are passing the baton over to jury someone who is equally passionate, knowledgeable, and ready to take on the fight with all of us. Again, thank you so much for your service.
Lisa, this is Jess Morgan from the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. We are going to miss you so much. I hope that you get some well deserved r R. Lord knows that you've earned it and you need it and deserve it. We've so enjoyed working with you. I've personally really enjoyed getting to know you over the years and thank you for everything you've done to help ensure that hungry neighbors across the state have access to really healthy foods. And Jory, we are so thrilled to have you on board as our new leader at the Ohio Association. There is nobody more perfect to be letha's predecessor than you. We are so grateful for the time and the effort you pour in to supporting the network of food banks all across the state. And the people of Ohio who are in need of emergency food assistance are better off because you're in the position that you're in. We can't wait to work with you further, and good luck.
[01:04:52] Speaker B: Lisa is a legend because she earned it. Through decades of advocating for those we serve, earning and respect governors, legislators, countless people around Capitol Square, two words come to mind when I think of Lisa passion for her work for those we serve, and tireless for the amount of work she did year after year on behalf of those we serve. Lisa, congratulations. Enjoy your retirement. And with Lisa, through these countless battles with the association, has been jory. Jory has been side by side with Lisa, helping to fight back nasty proposals on public assistance programs, securing funding, and so many ways to make sure those that need help get the help that they need. The association is in good steward with jewelry. And again, Lisa, we appreciate everything you have done through the years.
[01:05:49] Speaker A: I've honestly just been really grateful to be able to watch Lisa's example as a leader in these past couple years that I've been at Oaf. Something that I've really admired about her is just the high value that she places on people, whether that's Ohioans or individuals in our office.
She's somebody who's just really passionate, not just about some kind of impersonal cause of food security, but she's passionate about real people, and she's just really thrown her heart into standing up for others. She'll go against the grain to do that. She's that kind of leader that inspires confidence because she'll establish a clear direction and she'll make sure that nobody gets left behind. I think I've known since day one that she's in my corner, and I've been really grateful for the impact that she's had on me and on Ohioans.
I'm really excited that Jory's the one that's stepping into the role of executive Director. I think that the way she invests in our team here at Oaf has earned my trust over these last couple of years I've been here. She has this open door policy that's just continually demonstrated that she really cares genuinely for the work that we do. I've always felt like I'm a valued member of this team because of things like that. And Dory's just a leader who isn't there to be served or to gain praise. She's somebody that uplifts other people and really wants to serve other people and use her leadership to do that. I've already seen her as a leader with qualities that I want to emulate, and so I'm just nothing but excited for how she's going to deepen her impact. As the executive director here at Oaf.
[01:07:22] Speaker C: I've worked together with both Lisa and Jory for the past several years and have grown as a person, and I've learned so much. My first memory of Lisa is during my interview in 2009. I was super nervous and she came into the room and immediately made me feel welcome.
Some of the qualities in both Lisa and Joy that I admire are their compassion and commitment and also jumping in to quickly get things done, to advocate, to bring on new programs, or to deal with issues over the years, including the tremendous impact of COVID I'm excited for the future of the association and the food banks we serve.
[01:08:13] Speaker A: I hope you enjoyed this episode where Lisa and Jory were able to reflect on their memories, their successes, their challenges, and what they are excited for in the future.
Lisa and Jory, thank you for your many contributions and fierce commitment to your staff, ohio's Food Banks, and most importantly, the Ohioans We Serve for our listeners. I have linked a few of our previous episodes highlighting Oaf's history and Lisa's recent accomplishments, like her introduction into the Ohio Agriculture Hall of Fame. Thanks so much for listening and we will talk soon.
For any listeners who do not know, the Ohio Association of Food Banks has been undergoing a leadership transition.
I swear she didn't realize like this.
Okay, there has to be a blooper reel at the end of this one.
Oh, wait a that was perfect.
It that's not the soundtrack of my life.
Okay. Oh, my God.
It oh, man.