Tag Archives: food insecurity

Women in Nonprofits: Why More aren’t in Positions of Power

Traveling to far-flung places and helping people with their basic needs was Julie Chase-Morefield‘s dream in high school. Her mother grew up impoverished and shared stories of standing in line to get federal food commodities. Now Chase-Morefield is president and CEO of the Lorain-based Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio.

Diana Natalicio‘s high school set low expectations for students simply because they were from low-income families. Girls were taught home economics or secretarial skills, while boys learned woodworking and machine shop skills. As the first female president of the University of Texas at El Paso, Natalicio provided new opportunities for both low-income and Latino students.

Anita Bradley dropped out of college and struggled with drugs after both her father and uncle died in a boating accident. Bradley endured one crisis after another, including a miscarriage, until she finally sought treatment. Years later, Bradley founded the Northern Ohio Recovery Association in Cleveland.

Yet, driven and successful women like Natalicio, Bradley and Chase-Morefield are habitually demeaned on the job.

While studies show that 45% of nonprofit CEOs are women, the illusion of gender parity dissipates with closer examination, said Patricia Deyton, a senior adviser for the Council of Women World Leaders, an adjunct professor at the Simmons University School of Business and the Harvard Extension School in Boston and former CEO of the American Red Cross of Massachusetts Bay.

“When you look at the nonprofits with power—the ones with voice and the nationwide nonprofits—that’s where you see disparity in leadership,” Deyton said.

Women nonprofit CEOs earn 34% less than their male counterparts, said Deyton, who is also a senior associate at the Center for Gender in Organizations, a research group at Simmons University. And, she said, women hold just 18% of CEO roles at nonprofits with budgets over $50 million.

Such disparities make it difficult for women to lead, Chase-Morefield said.

“Women are collaborators who just want to make things happen without worrying about who gets the credit,” she said. “But that’s not the way the rest of the world is.”

As a result, Chase-Morefield thought she couldn’t have flaws.

“I felt I had to be much more serious and much more prepared than men because I was being judged on a much higher standard,” she said. “My predecessor had been male, and there was a little bit of a ‘good ol’ boys’ thing with the men in the community. It was frustrating. They wouldn’t take me seriously.

“People would even say, ‘You went into nonprofits because you couldn’t make it in the business world.'”

Women’s work? No, women’s values

Nearly 75% of nonprofit employees are women—not because they can’t make it in business but because the sector reflects women’s values to a greater degree, Deyton said.

Indeed, most staff and board members at Humble Design in Pontiac, Mich., are women—though not intentionally. Founder and co-CEO Treger Strasberg said the work resonates with more women.

Strasberg understands Chase-Morefield’s frustration.

“I’ve seen directly how being a woman has impacted my business,” she said. “Small meetings tend to be run by women-driven organizations. But when we get to the large organizations seeking large dollars, serious money, it’s a male-centric room.”

Strasberg has been studying homelessness for 11 years and even talked about affordable housing at the White House with Ben Carson, the U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development. “But I’ve been to meetings where there were 16 people, and I was the only woman,” she said. “And they turn to my husband, who is not an expert, for answers.”

Likewise, Diana Sieger finds she’s not always taken seriously or included in networking opportunities even after being appointed president of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation more than 30 years ago.

“I don’t play golf,” she said, “But I survive.”

Sieger credits the respect she gets in boardrooms to her outspoken nature.

“I would be the only woman sitting around the table, and I wanted so desperately to be taken seriously,” she said. “But I was never shy about advisedly expressing my opinion, and that worked in my favor.

“I remember sitting in a meeting, and the men were denigrating Hillary Clinton in pretty unsavory terms. I said, ‘I want you to go home and say that to your wife, your daughter and your granddaughter and see how they react.’

“From that time forward, I didn’t hear those kinds of comments.”

The takeaway, Sieger said, was not to allow herself to be minimized, to address it then and there and to learn how to sit down with a business leader and hold her own.

“I take the attitude that you may not like me, but you’re going to respect me,” she said.

Nonetheless, Sieger acknowledged that being a white woman in leadership is a truly different experience from being a minority female leader.

“Women say men treat us as if we’re invisible,” she said, “but African American women and Latinx women are truly invisible people.”

Case in point: Helene Gayle, M.D., noticed throughout her career that she could be the only leader in the room and still be discounted by male colleagues.

“Luckily, I came into my roles in the times when being the first woman was not the uphill battle that it was 20 or 30 years ago.

“Still, I have had male counterparts that were my direct reports, and reports of my direct reports, who got more attention in meetings than I did,” said Gayle, president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, former president and CEO of CARE and a physician who worked with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on HIV/AIDS and other health issues.

As a minority leader, NORA’s Anita Bradley finds she must do more than her male counterparts to get the outcomes for the people she’s serving.

“I have brought in more than 20 million federal dollars,” Bradley said, “but it’s not easy.”

It’s what you know—and who, too

The ability to acquire essential funding, Bradley said, comes down having access to a larger social network. That’s something that men and white people in general tend to have because they are invited to serve on more boards of directors.

“Clearly, being on boards provides connections, knowledge and experience,” Deyton said.

Likewise, Cassie Nielsen, president of Talent for VMG Partners, recently told Yahoo! Finance it “makes economic sense” for women to serve on boards as they make 70-80% of consumer purchasing decisions.

“Yet, because women are underrepresented on boards of directors, those boards lack a diversity of decision-makers, which allows unconscious bias to play out,” Deyton said.

Sieger of the Grand Rapids Foundation said boards of trustees also help build a good network of female leaders and other support and are easier to get on than boards of directors.

It took a while to get her foot in the door, but Eva Garza Dewaelsche, president and CEO of SER Metro-Detroit Jobs for Progress Inc., said sitting on several boards has allowed her to penetrate a normally all-male group of leaders. Dewaelsche sits on the advisory board of Comerica Bank, is a member of the New Detroit board of directors and is a Detroit police commissioner.

Unfortunately, she said, she has received more help from men than women.

“I would like to be able to say that women have opened doors to opportunity for me, Dewaelsche said. “But that hasn’t been the case for most of my life because they are not in leadership roles or were not when I started 25 years ago.

“Women have to place themselves in situations where they can have that opportunity—where they can be leaders. I take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way to learn how to be a leader.”

Whatever the reasons for the inequality, women’s work should not be diminished, Deyton said. “Women at work in this country’s more than 900,000 charitable organizations are making huge contributions to the fabric of our society.”

This story was originally published at FordFund.org/our-stories. Read more about these incredible women:

Compassion Becomes a Career for Women in Nonprofits
http://FordFund.org/our-stories.Bringing Dignity to the Struggles of Others
From Roots in ’60s and ’70s Grow 3 Advocates for Social Change 

Zero hunger, zero waste

Wasted food scraps

More than 40 million people are struggling with hunger in the United States. Nearly half of those people are employed.

Food insecurity doesn’t just affect unemployed individuals and those living in low-income communities. That’s a common misconception. It’s an issue for working families — and for the business community overall.

“Even in the wealthiest communities, you still have families struggling to make ends meet,” said Gerry Brisson, director of Gleaners Community Food Bank. “Forty-seven percent of the people who get help from a food bank or food rescue are employed. You’ll find kids getting free and reduced lunch, breakfast, an after-school snack or dinner in every single public or charter school.”

Forgotten Harvest Director Kirk Mayes agreed. “If there are any life transitions going on behind closed doors, even if you live in an affluent community, the first place that instability rears its head is at kitchen tables.”

Among the physical toll hunger takes, there is an extraordinary annual $460 billion economic cost associated with food insecurity resulting from difficulty learning, reduced lifetime earnings, lost productivity and health-care expenses, according to economists The Perryman Group.

Nevertheless, the Environmental Protection Agency reports we don’t eat more than 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S., and we discard more than 37 million tons of food annually.

These staggering statistics encouraged The Kroger Co. to establish Zero Hunger Zero Waste, a program designed to eliminate waste companywide and help eliminate hunger in the 35 states in which it operates by 2025. The plan includes:

  • Creating a $10 million innovation fund;
  • Donating 3 billion balanced meals; and
  • Joining forces with thousands of nonprofits, including Gleaners and Forgotten Harvest, to make it happen.

“The reality is we operate businesses in Michigan, and people are hungry in Michigan. Oakland, Wayne and Macomb are three counties that are among the top most food insecure in the country,” said Rachel Hurst, corporate affairs manager at Kroger.

In October, Kroger partnered with Crain Content Studio, the marketing storytelling arm of Crain’s Detroit Business, to gather experts from government, nonprofits and retail to talk about solving the problems of hunger and food waste.

Roundtable participants Top row, from left: Gerry Brisson, Director, Gleaners Community Food Bank | Melanie Brummeler, Acting Supervisor, Michigan Department of Education Office of Health and Nutrition Services | Doug Busch, Owner, Busch’s Inc. Middle row, from left: Heather Holland, School Nutrition Analyst, Michigan Department of Education | Rachel Hurst, Corporate Affairs Manager, Kroger | Kirk Mayes, Director, Forgotten Harvest Bottom row, from left: Pashon Murray, Co-Founder and Director, Detroit Dirt | James Rigato, Executive Chef and Owner, Mabel Gray; Co-Owner, Doug’s Delight | Lori Yelton, Nutritionist, Michigan Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development  Photos by Aaron Eckels

Leveraging composting resources

James Rigato, executive chef and owner of Mabel Gray Kitchen and co-owner of Doug’s Delight, both in Hazel Park, regularly witnesses uneaten food. While restaurants try to waste as little food as possible, he said you can’t control what people order.

“We’re a very consumer-driven society,” Rigato said. “Plenty of people over-order because they want to taste everything.”

At the same time, nearly 95 percent of discarded food goes to landfills, which doesn’t just divert it from the hungry but also impacts growers. Scientists contend that landfills release greenhouse gasses from decomposing organic materials, cause groundwater pollution, harmfully impact soil fertility and negatively impact health, explained Pashon Murray, co-founder of Detroit Dirt.

Detroit Dirt works with companies — such as General Motors Co., Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, restaurants and nonprofits — to divert food waste from landfills and create compost for farmers.

“We pick the food waste up. We process it with the Detroit Zoological Society’s herbivore manure, and we make compost,” Murray said. “Hopefully, we’ll see investment for the technology that is needed in order to mass-produce that product. Think of all the jobs that can be created.”

From the perspective of a restaurateur, Rigato said investment in composting infrastructure makes sense.

“If somebody came along and said, James, you have to compost. Here’s your bin. Do not throw that away, or you’ll be fined. I would say ‘Okay, great.’ I pay for dumpster service. So, what’s the difference? That absolutely makes sense.”

Like Kroger, Busch’s Inc. is working to reduce food waste and make it a resource for those in need. The Ann Arbor-based retailer donates to schools, food pantries and food banks. In 2017, Busch’s donated 100,000 gallons of milk and 12,000 cases of food from its 17 locations.

Still, even grocery stores find themselves with edible foods, such as doughnuts and meats, that aren’t eligible for donation.

“We can’t donate anything that has been put out, unfortunately. So, there’s always going to be ‘X’ amount of waste,” said Busch’s Owner Doug Busch. “That’s what makes composting a great option. It could still get recycled into the system.”

Hurst and Busch said it would help if there were alignment between nonprofits as to what is donatable and what is not. Lori Yelton, a nutritionist with the Michigan Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development, added it’s often about keeping food as safe as you can so if it isn’t used, it can be donated.

School lunch regulations, opportunities

Heather Holland, school nutrition analyst for the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), implemented a task force to examine best practices in food service at the state’s public schools to ultimately eliminate food insecurity in these school communities.

That program, being tested in Madison and Warren Consolidated schools, involves maximizing the use of federal programs, increasing the quality of the food served, feeding food insecure children 365 days a year, making sure the students are eating the food, and then adding programs after school and in the summer so the children can be fed.

The MDE isn’t working alone on feeding hungry children. It is partnering with Gleaners and the Food Bank Council of Michigan and hopes to add more partners.

While getting more fresh fruits and vegetables into school cafeterias is crucial, the purchase of food and receipt of donated food is highly regulated by federal and state governments, explained Melanie Brummeler, acting supervisor at MDE’s Office of Health and Nutrition Services.

These regulations can make purchasing difficult. But Yelton said they improve food quality. She said the state’s Cultivate Michigan — farm-to-school and farm-to-institution — program, started by the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food System, makes it possible for schools to purchase local foods or to find places to donate food.

Michigan also participates in the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s and Food and Nutrition Service’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program that allows school districts with higher food insecurity to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables as a daytime snack for students.

Waste, however, is not regulated

“Some school districts compost,” Brummeler said. “I’ve heard anecdotal stories where they just have buckets of food, and it goes home to the kitchen manager’s farm to feed to her pigs.”

Holland suggested school districts create a shared table where if a child doesn’t want a school-provided meal, he or she can share it with other students.

School lunches are one thing. Forgotten Harvest’s Mayes, however, expressed frustration with programs designed to feed children in the summer.

“We’re asking … to allow summer lunches to be released so the kids can go home and eat them if they want. But the actual spirit of the conversation that we don’t hear … is our legislators don’t want to allow that care and service to extend to the parents. They just want to keep the soft hearts for the kids, but if this is involving letting a parent get half a sandwich that the kid is not going to eat, then no.”

Consequently, he said, those leftovers end up in the garbage rather than nourishing a hungry parent. Gleaners’ Brisson concurred, adding. “We don’t believe, based on our experience, that you can have a food-secure child in a food-insecure household.”

Making a commitment to food security

In 2017, Kroger’s 122 Michigan stores donated more than 5.2 million pounds of food through local food banks. But the Zero Hunger Zero Waste initiative isn’t just about what Kroger can do within its store walls, Hurst said. “It’s about reaching out to restaurants. It’s reaching out to schools. It’s reaching out to the state. It’s talking about policy.”

Brisson said the consequences of not addressing hunger are enormous, and the cost is significantly bigger than the cost of food. “If employers made a commitment to the food security of their own teams, how would that affect people at work? Who feels better at work hungry? Nobody. It will always be the case,” Brisson said.

“We have food available in our break room every day at every location; because we know if you come to work hungry, you’re harder to work with,” he said. “This isn’t rocket science. We really need to look at the systems in place and evaluate how we can turn those systems into winners. It’s not just the people who need help that win when this problem is solved. Businesses win. Health care wins. Education wins.”

This story was originally published by Crain Content Studio for The Kroger Co. Learn more about the Zero Hunger Zero Waste Campaign at TheKrogerCo.com.

Learn more about composting by contacting the Department of Environmental Quality or your county’s Michigan State University Extension.