Today in our continuing series of profiles featuring the members of our board, we focus on loyal FFEN supporter, Sue Gillman. As part of her responsibilities, Sue frequently represents FFEN during the formation and development of food shelf partnerships and helps to guide FFEN's mission and approach.. Let's learn a little bit more about Sue, and the experiences and values that inform her work.
What was your background before FFEN? How does it relate to your role on the board? About six years ago, after owning and operating three international operations consultancies (Supurna LLC), I was able to restructure and allocate time, porting my skills into volunteering. I was looking for something that would leverage my skills (operations management, supply chain, and business acumen). I admit, I did not know my community. I lived in the community but traveled extensively for work. I thought this was a good time to plug in.
Since I love planning, organizing, and designing stuff, I reached out to our neighborhood food shelf (Christian Cupboard in Woodbury). The email I got back summarized where they were in their journey—“come at 8:30 and wear short sleeves.” That was six years ago. We were open four hours a week, served 400 families a month, and the food was packed and handed out from the basement of a church. Today we serve 1,600 families per month, built a new 5,000 square-foot building, distribute over 100,000 pounds of food per month, and run with 2.5 full-time employees. I volunteer about 40 hours per month and do all of the inventory management. From this experience, I found FFEN. Like Christian Cupboard, food shelves across the state can change and thrive—if we ask professional volunteers like myself to engage. Did you have any involvement with hunger relief efforts prior to FFEN? Can you say a little about what drew you to this cause and why it’s important to you? I had NO experience or knowledge in this sector and was blessed with friends who introduced me to leaders in the sector so I could learn quickly.
I believe that food insecurity is on the rise—the data supports this. I also believe that there is plenty of food but it’s not always in the right place. By leveraging my supply chain and business skills, I’m hopeful that the FFEN team can reduce some of these barriers. Do you have any particular stories or moments from your work that you would like to share with readers? Something that illustrates the meaning and importance of the work or how you engage with FFEN’s mission? Since I’m one of the board members who work in the field, I have many stories of change and happiness we’ve brought to the community, but one comes to mind. FFEN intentionally focused on the iron range and I was assigned Chisholm—a small storefront on main street where people could stop by and pick up a box of food. Our diagnostic revealed that they could rescue more food from Walmart if they had a vehicle and refrigeration. FFEN helped secure funding for both. Chisholm then launched a mobile market to several neighboring communities. The Chisholm leadership has now converted their storefront into a free grocery store. Lots of transformation by the community with a little help launching strategy from FFEN.
Thank you to Sue Gillman for taking the time to answer our questions! If you'd like to learn more about the members of FFEN's board, check out our profile of Carolyn Kohrs here! Or read about our board's newest members: Andréa Kish-Bailey and Haley Nelson. To learn more about FFEN’s mission and how you can help, click here.