Second Harvest of the Big Bend’s new executive director is settling into his new job.
Richard “Rich” English is no stranger to the challenging task of collecting huge quantities of food and getting it into the hands of people who desperately need it.
“I came from a much larger food bank in Akron, the Akron-Canton Food Bank, where I gained a lot of experience in the operational part of the business, compliance, food safety, OSHA, those kinds of things," he said.
Under English, the Northeastern Ohio food bank’s distribution grew from sixteen million pounds to more than twenty-one million over the last four years. Despite this success, English, his wife and kids were thinking of warmer climes.
“We talked about once they got out of high school we wanted to move south and we had talked about moving to South Carolina for years. Well my kids are all in college now and I just happened to see that there was a position open here in Tallahassee and it caught my eye because I grew up a Florida State Seminole fan and I’m very passionate about the Seminoles.”
Akron, Ohio, once a heavy industrial powerhouse, is a slowly recovering rust belt relic. But English says even the superficially more prosperous North Florida area has economic problems that require food bank resources.
“Obviously the situation here with the oyster beds and storms can create problems. There’s such a need here, but one thing I’ve noticed is that this community…the support that we get is unbelievable," said English.
English cites a recent food distribution in Apalachicola where a number of hard-pressed seafood workers showed up.
“Because we didn’t have a lot of volunteers there, some of our staff was there and doing it and these people said, ‘You know what? We’re going to help you.’ And they stood there for hours bagging up food for other people and when the line died down they got their food and they left and it was just an example of support from this community wanting to help others in need," he said.
The need continues. Paul Clement is development director for Second Harvest of the Big Bend.
“We need to raise about a hundred-thousand dollars this spring. We get a lot of donations of food and money during the fall because everyone’s in the giving spirit and everyone wants somebody to have a meal on the table. But then come January first, everyone kind of forgets there are people in need, but the need is still there. We still have over 44,000 people a month we’re trying to serve.”
Which means you’ll probably want to gather up all your old canned goods and other non-perishable food and drop it off at Second Harvest, right? English says there’s a better idea.
“If you went to the grocery store and purchased a certain amount of food for a certain amount of money, we can triple that and actually get three times what you would get at the store because of the way we’re able to secure foods. So when we get food donations – we love it of course, we can use the food – but the money goes so much farther. We’ll able to do so much more with it.”
Good advice from the big Seminole fan who’s now at the helm of Second Harvest of the Big Bend.