Up Close with Eric
January | February 2024
The start of the year has not been easy. With the loss of Antawn, we are all reminded of the preciousness of life and the importance of taking joy in all we do. As we celebrated his life, collectively and individually, I knew we would honor him best by not only embracing life, but renewing our commitment to the work we do on behalf of the children, families, and students we serve through all we do each day.
With this focus, we have continued to deliver on our vital programming. I encourage you to review the Performance Highlights to get a feel for the depth of work happening. As always, I am so impressed with what our team does each week.
I want to highlight three items – all of which are touched on briefly in the Performance Highlights, but deserve more attention.
First of all, early this month, our Board of Directors approved a set of significant investments proposed by our team to advance vital work and opportunities in our critical technology systems, enhance our sustainability efforts, and accelerate our nutrition education through alternative agriculture. At our All Staff meeting, I will highlight this information a little more, but here is a quick overview:
ERP (Enterprise Resource Plan) and Aliment – we will be investing in a critically needed update to our inventory and other technology systems that will enhance our efficiency and create new opportunities in the way we do business. The development of the incredibly innovative, AI-driven Aliment AI project, led by Matt Nooe, promises to create even more benefits for the individuals we serve, our internal team, our partner agencies, and overall community.
Solar Harvest – we are finalizing plans and finishing our due diligence to implement a large-scale solar panel project for the roof of our building that is projected to produce 74% of the electricity needed to operate our building.
Food Forest Refocus – we are examining options to demonstrate alternative agriculture approaches – hydroponics, aeroponics, and aquaponics – in the back of the building (in the inner loop outside of distribution).
Second, related to the ERP, I want to thank the more than 19 members of our team who have been part of the vendor presentations related to the evaluation and selection of this new system. This group did a tremendous amount of pre-work to establish our goals for this vital decision-making process. At this time, we are finishing final presentations, and in the coming weeks the group will come together to weigh the options and make a decision on the right direction for our Food Bank.
Third, I want to thank everyone one of you for your engagement to date in our Culture of Belonging work. I realize this is a significant time commitment. However, it makes a statement to your teammates and yourself when you seek to learn more and reflect on how the critical concepts in these sessions can enhance what you do and who we are as an organization. Keep up the excellent work and dedication – I am thankful for each of you for walking this journey.
As I seem to always end (and maybe I should just end this way every time), there is so much more happening than there is time to cover. Please know what an honor it is to work with you and share your amazing achievements with our community in all that I do.
Happy Holidays, Second Harvest Team!
I enjoy re-reading my previous holiday messages as I prepare this annual note of thanks and appreciation. From last year, the line that jumped out was this observation: “…November  was the highest number so far this year with over 50,300 individuals assisted.” In 2023, we saw only one month with less than 50,000 unduplicated individuals served by Second Harvest and our network and October reached an astounding 73,316 people!
Now, more than ever, our work – whether it is food assistance, culinary training, nutrition education and everything that is integral to or an extension of these activities – remains vital to the health and prosperity of the individuals, families, and communities of Northwest North Carolina.
As I was thinking about what to share, I realized that the first half of this fiscal year is defined by great progress and movement toward our goals – not necessarily a set of completed activities. At times, I’m not always the best at celebrating the wonders of our work and our actions – or, in this case, the progress we have made toward critical, impactful activities. However, there is no better time of year to reflect on the wonders around us, which I hope each of you embrace in what you do, who you work with, and all the people in your life. This is also true of the progress we are making and the impact we are creating. Without you, we could not bring hope and opportunity to so many in our region.
Here are just a few examples of how you are bringing our work to life and improving lives in just the last six months:
Despite challenges with food sourcing, we are responding to the sustained, high level of need for food assistance – averaging 68,000 unduplicated individuals per month compared to a little more than 44,000 during the same period last year.
Our Providence Culinary Training program is regularly seeing waiting lists for the program and began the barista training module to expand future opportunities for community members.
Between our new headquarters and our Greensboro Center, we are fortunate to enjoy these wonderful resources with the region. Shorefair has hosted over 80 meetings with outside groups – helping us embrace the community and bring to life our goal to bring more people “to” our mission.
We continued to expand the capacity of our partner agency network through direct and indirect investments in vital resources such as refrigeration, transportation, and, of course, food.
Work on identifying our next ERP along with developing the exciting Aliment project has been a highlight that is incredibly exciting (and a little scary too – in a good way) for our team.
In partnership with Forsyth Tech and Goodwill Industries, plans for the Supply Chain Management/Logistics program are moving ahead with classes planned in early spring.
The sustainability efforts of the organization have been honored by the Piedmont Environmental Alliance and will continue to grow as our “separator” comes online in the coming weeks.
Despite a challenging economy, our community continues to respond to our mission through their generous giving and support. This included the single largest bequest in our organization’s history from our friend Diane Hartzog, who left us too soon.
Another “clean” audit with no management items once again demonstrates the high level of professionalism, transparency, and accountability that is valued by our team.
Our county engagement sessions have been a source of inspiration, information, and education for our team along with strengthening relationships with our partner agencies and creating new relationships with community leaders in the counties we serve.
While the Mobile Nutrition vehicle continued its rounds to bring produce and nutrition education to areas of the community, we were excited to begin more regular mobile food distributions with the use of the Food Lion unit to targeted areas of our region.
The re-organization of our volunteer services is positioning us for enhanced success in recruiting volunteers and creating the best volunteer experience in the region.
We opened Generations Café as part of Senior Services’ new intergenerational center in Forsyth County. This enhances the learning opportunities for our culinary training students.
Progress on our strategic plan goals is keeping us focused on our priorities for today while positioning us for the future.
Farm Fresh Nourish! continues to reach new levels of success in addressing food insecurity among our area residents dealing with chronic health challenges while we invest in local farmers, especially women-owned and Black-owned farms.
Our team continues to build new relationships with area health systems, school systems, and colleges/universities, which results in removing barriers to access to many of our neighbors.
Finally, I want to take a moment to send a special wish and thanks to the heavens as we remember Joyce Kohfeldt, who was one of our most generous and inspiring advocates. Her impassioned plea that “Hunger is Unacceptable!” remains with us in all we do.
So much to celebrate and so much for which to be thankful. While I have stated this in the past, it bears repeating - I am honored to serve beside you all and walk life’s journey with you as we bring the mission of Second Harvest Food Bank to our region.
I hope your holidays continue to be full of wonder and the start of the New Year brings you and those you love prosperity and joy!
With deep appreciation,
On the heels of Spirit Week, I was thinking about the spirit that lives at Second Harvest every day. No, we don’t have a ghost (at least not one that I’m aware of). I’m speaking of the energy that's created by each of you as we distribute food, prepare meals, teach students, assist our agencies, tell our story, and engage the community. There is something special about what I observe when I walk around the facility, grab lunch in the breakroom, or participate in meetings. That energy is felt far beyond the walls of our facilities in Winston-Salem or Greensboro.
Two weekends ago, this spirit was in full view. At the Ardmore RAH, there was a sense of pride voiced by everyone connected to the race that their involvement helped support our work—it was going somewhere that was making a difference. The next morning at Union Baptist Church, the expressions of thanks for our partnership in their STEAM & Read and Family Nutrition Programs and all we do throughout the community were humbling.
I wish I could capture every comment and message and share them with you. My hope is that this message will remind you how valued you are by our community and how the spirit that you are part of creating extends across the neighborhoods, towns, cities, and counties in Northwest North Carolina.
This spirit that comes through these comments, kind words, and thoughts of appreciation motivates me every day. It calls me to continue the excellent work we have done since our founding 42 years ago and find new ways to create a stronger future for our region’s children, seniors, and families.
Once again there is wonderful information shared in this month’s newsletter and I hope you’ll take time to review each link. Our team is doing great work (see the Performance Highlights and other information) and your engagement in our committees is helping us to continue making this a special place to work.
Thank you for all you do every day to change lives!
Fall is here! The weather has been awesome the past few days and I’m hoping it will continue for all of us throughout October.
The photos from the Family Celebration at the Food Bank were amazing! I was driving through Charlotte at the time after attending a Feeding the Carolinas meeting in Columbia, SC that included some important topics for our work and the network of food banks across the Carolinas. Still, I hated to miss it and I’m sorry I couldn’t be with you. I want to thank the Engagement Committee and everyone who made the evening something special.
As you will see in the Performance Highlights, there are so many impressive happenings around the Food Bank. While we face challenges to respond to the incredibly high need, I’m proud of how our team is doing all they can source food, seek creative ways to get food where it is needed most, explore new partnerships, and work towards even more impactful strategies.
Speaking of strategy, at the end of October, we will produce our first update on the progress being made on our Strategic Plan. When released, I encourage you all to read the document and realize how we are doing a very impressive job of moving our work forward. More to come on this once we release the update.
In addition, Casey will be visiting with each department in the near future to review updates to our Employee Handbook. Much of the changes revolved around required language due to changes in the law; however, I’m pleased to share that we have officially added Juneteenth as a holiday in acknowledgement of this important day in our nation’s history. Your advocacy, especially from the JEDI Council, was key to our presenting this to the Board – thank you.
Finally, I want to share four brief reflections of appreciation of your work. It is always hard to do this when so much great work is happening; however, I needed to share these stories with you:
I was so impressed by our Ops team along with other members from across the organization for their patience and spirit as they completed our most recent community food distribution in Bermuda Run as a consistent rain came down all morning. With 200 cars lined up before 6 am, it speaks to the difficulties faced by our residents, but you were there for them – helping address car trouble, managing some young volunteers to make sure everyone was safe, and ensuring that everyone is served with dignity and kindness.
Farm to Second Harvest, the second largest event we hold, was another great success. What impresses me so much is the collaboration between the talents of our Providence team with the skills of our Philanthropy & Community Engagement team. Together, they create a unique experience that exposes community members to our impressive, life-changing work.
I’m in constant awe of our catering team and the job they do. Each week is busy, but recently there has been a multitude of large events, including their support of Farm to Second Harvest; receptions for Junior League and a group of our own donors; and an amazing experience for the Kiwanis Club, which has supported our Food Bank for years. Trust me, these are just a few of the many activities that they are managing in our building.
Our Partnerships & Impact team is all over the place – literally and figuratively – and that is a good thing. Building new school partnerships; increasing the capacity of our partner agencies; guiding us toward a more robust approach to nutrition through all of our work; matching and managing over 260 grocery stores with our partners; or creating the next group of leaders in Greensboro – this team is doing an impressive balancing act to help us strengthen our work and our region.
As always, so much happening... and I have to stop typing at some point. Please know how proud I am of you and how honored I am to work beside you.
Greeting Second Harvest Team –
It has been an energizing last couple of weeks!
As the weather allows, I hope you'll find a moment at lunch or another break to walk through the Clyde Fitzgerald Teaching Garden. Beth Sarmiento has done a great job with it, and I appreciate the many of other staff and volunteers involved in this work.
I want to share a few updates and thoughts with you today.
Amazon Web Services and Cloudwick
This month, we hosted members of the Amazon Web Services and Cloudwick teams to explore an incredibly innovative model for accessing and using data to enhance our work. While we are still early in the process, Amazon and Cloudwick were highly impressed with the thinking and possibilities of this project design. Matt Nooe, in collaboration with Cailey Neuschaefer, led the creation of this work and the related initial proposal that has drawn such wonderful attention from Amazon. Over the coming weeks, we’ll work with Cloudwick to submit the formal proposal to Amazon as part of a nationwide competition for significant grant funding and technical assistance support.
Catalyst Kitchen National Summit
We were honored to host the Catalyst Kitchen National Summit. Our selection as host was the direct result of our collective work and Jeff’s and his team’s leadership of our Providence Department work in the culinary training world. Thank you all for showing our special guests a warm welcome, as you do every day for our volunteers and visitors.
Welcoming New Board Members
We continue our Board Orientation for seven great additions to the Board that was shared with you in an earlier message. As we move ahead with additional planning around Second Harvest University, I will be offering a condensed version of our Board Orientation for those who may be interested. It will focus on the role of the Board while providing an overview of the items/areas that we review with them.
Significant progress is being made to finalize a number of items to get us to a “complete” project. The freezer that had the floor problem is now operational, our generator has been connected and will soon be tested, the PlaceOS conference room and check-in software is almost ready to go live, and the separator is ready to go (just getting training in place). In the area of “still in progress”, the Reed Street freezers are still multiple weeks away from coming online, a number of smaller (yet vitally important) electrical items still need attention, and there is a list of around a dozen other modest actions that need to be done, including ongoing tweaks to the technology. Thank you for your patience as the settling-in process continues.
After a short break, our Executive Committee and Board will get back into full swing with their monthly meetings. There is a lot on the agenda, including a review of the Team Member Guidebook, approval of an Investment Policy, discussion of our emerging Nutrition Policy, and, over the coming months a review of the status of our strategic plan activities – more on that in future messages.
All of you received the message from Collin about the planned staff lunches. I do hope you’ll join me for these gatherings with colleagues. As shared, there will be no formal agenda – just a time for us to get to know each other better as well as an opportunity to ask questions of me and other team members. It is a great chance to learn more about the work each person is doing, but also more about each of you personally. I’m very excited to have this time with you!
I do want to thank everyone involved on our internal committees. Through the monthly Feeding Community team newsletter, you’ll be getting a full update on their happenings and they are impressive. Your work is appreciated on behalf of the entire team and our organization.