Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, presented the John van Hengel award and celebrated its network members at the organization’s annual conference this week. The 2023 John van Hengel Fellowship was awarded to Susannah Morgan, CEO of Oregon Food Bank in Portland, Oregon. Nine network members and affiliates were also recognized for their outstanding work during the conference’s “Network Celebrations,” including: Dare to Care Food Bank, FeedMore Western New York, Food Bank for New York City, Food Bank of the Rockies and Food Bank of Wyoming, Hawai’i Foodbank with its affiliates, Maui Food Bank and The Food Basket, and the Westmoreland Food Bank.
2023 John van Hengel Fellowship
The award honors the ideals of the late John van Hengel, who developed the concept of food banking in the 1960s. It recognizes an executive of a partner food bank for excellence in leadership, local impact and national influence, and entrepreneurial spirit in the area of hunger relief.
Susannah Morgan has served the Oregon Food Bank as CEO for more than 10 years and has worked in food banking for nearly 30 years. Under Morgan’s leadership, the Oregon Food Bank has pursued a vision for resilient communities that never go hungry—prioritizing equity, pursuing public policy solutions, and significantly increasing the distribution of fresh, regional produce. Prior to the Oregon Food Bank, Morgan served as CEO of the Food Bank of Alaska for more than a decade, tripling the organization’s food distribution while establishing the state’s first anti-hunger advocacy program.
“When it comes to advocating for change, Susannah is a trailblazer in every sense of the word. She is a passionate, active leader who centers people experiencing food insecurity and tirelessly promotes equitable policies,” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America. “Susannah has an indomitable spirit and is dedicated to disrupting systems that perpetuate disparities. Her commitment to our mission is demonstrated through her undaunted work at the Oregon Food Bank prioritizing equitable access to food through anti-racism programs and addressing root causes of hunger by advocating for solutions for affordable housing, public transportation, health care and beyond. Congratulations, Susannah, and thank you for all you do.”
- Dare to Care Food Bank in Louisville, Kentucky, is recognized for its commitment to an abundance mentality through its response to the organization’s compensation study. The food bank’s leadership examined their own practices and reviewed their employee compensation structures. The results came a week before the food bank’s fiscal year 2023 budget meeting, with the team quickly outlining a data-driven case for their board of directors to consider. The board readily embraced the proposed changes. The subsequent salary adjustments enabled longtime employees to quit their second or third jobs and focus entirely on Dare to Care’s mission.
- FeedMore WNY is recognized for its strong commitment to a community in need of support. When a horrific mass shooting targeted Tops, the only grocery store in a predominately Black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York, last year, staff from FeedMore Western New York immediately came to the scene. They worked side by side with community partners to mobilize daily food distributions. In the months to come, FeedMore continued serving to help ensure people traumatized by this horrific hate crime had access to nourishing food at a time when their neighborhood grocery remained closed, and many residents did not feel comfortable inside stores.
- The Food Bank for New York City is recognized for its research uncovering how leaders of color were not afforded the same educational and professional opportunities as other nonprofit leaders. The food bank offers an educational clinic to leaders of color within its agency partner network to enhance organizational capacity and infrastructure. During the five-month clinic, leaders deepen skills in fundraising, advocacy, leadership, project management and sustainability. To date, 110 leaders from 55 agency partners have benefited from this initiative.
- The Food Bank of the Rockies and Food Bank of Wyoming are recognized for their work with the Wind River Reservation. For the last year, 10 families from the Wind River Reservation co-designed a participatory research initiative with the two food banks. The effort shined a light on the experience of food insecurity among members of Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes and lifted up the communities’ solutions for food sovereignty. This collaborative work resulted in access to meaningful foods during the tribes’ summer ceremonies and a powerful Foodography exhibit where tribal members depicted the role of food in their lives through images and words.
- The Hawai'i Foodbank and its affiliates, the Maui Food Bank and The Food Basket, are recognized for envisioning a collaborative future by investing in one another and for discovering that none of the food banks had ever received emergency food funding from the state. The group calls themselves The Food Bank Hui (Hoo-EE), which is Hawaiian for “the Food Bank Group,” and their successful advocacy led to a $2 million allocation to the group from the state. They are now collaborating to pass legislation to make this vital funding permanent for each year.
- Westmoreland County Food Bank is recognized for its work with government officials to ensure food assistance services remained open to the residents of Pennsylvania during the pandemic. The food bank set up daily calls with the county commission, strengthening community efforts to respond to the increase in demand for charitable food assistance. A recently approved allocation of $4.4 million from the state to the food bank will help enable mobile pantry distributions, a refreshed website, an expanded facility and more.
“Each of these network members has made a tremendous impact in their communities alongside people facing hunger,” said Babineaux-Fontenot. “This honor is shared by each person connected to the work at their food bank—employees, volunteers, donors and partners. From investments in Native American food sovereignty to advocacy for emergency food funding, to community support following a horrific hate crime in Buffalo, New York, last year, the achievements of these food banks demonstrate the impact we can have when we come together.”
Feeding America’s mission is to advance change in America by ensuring equitable access to nutritious food for all. Feeding America is a network of more than 200 food banks, 21 statewide food bank associations, and over 60,000 agency partners, including food pantries and meal programs, that provide food assistance to millions of people each year. Collectively, over the past three fiscal years, the Feeding America network has provided more than 17 billion meals to tens of millions of people in need.
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About Feeding America
Feeding America® is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. Through a network of more than 200 food banks, 21 statewide food bank associations, and over 60,000 partner agencies, food pantries and meal programs, we helped provide 5.3 billion meals to tens of millions of people in need last year. Feeding America also supports programs that prevent food waste and improve food security among the people we serve; brings attention to the social and systemic barriers that contribute to food insecurity in our nation; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.