Meet Jennifer Stewart, the Senior Manager of Supply Chain for the North Texas Food Bank, a non-profit organization, that aims at closing the hunger gap in North Texas by providing access to nutritious food.
Jennifer grew up in a small town in Western New York. Before beginning her journey as a hunger fighter with the North Texas Foodbank, she had spent 20 years as a project manager working in the profit sector while raising 3 amazing children. During that time, she used to spend as much time as she could to volunteer for her children’s schools and club sports teams. She says, “Always signing up to be responsible for hospitality positions, feeding people has been a focus for much of my life”.
Founded in 1982, the North Texas Food Bank is a top-ranked nonprofit hunger-relief organization operating a state-of-the-art volunteer and distribution center in Plano. It is a member of Feeding America, a national hunger-relief organization, and works hard in partnership with member agencies of their Feeding Network to provide access to more than 200,000 meals per day for hungry children, seniors, and families across a diverse 13-county service area. With a goal to provide access to 92 million nutritious meals annually by 2025, the organization and its members have been working hard to increase their food distribution efforts, especially since the pandemic. Talking about the sudden change in approach during that period, Jennifer says, “With the start of COVID, we needed to completely reinvent how we distributed food. Pre-COVID food was distributed based on a client choice model where needy people could come into a food pantry and ‘shop’ for food based on the needs and preferences of their household. Because of the pandemic, we needed to shift to a low-touch/no-touch distribution model along with a dramatic increase in the volume, and it was a challenge. But we all were committed towards our job, especially in such dire circumstances when there was no employment and the world seemed to be falling apart. Because of my work in those days, I was even recognized by Seattle Chocolate as a ‘Hero We Need’ for their ‘Cheers to Heroes’ collection for International Women’s day”.
As the senior manager of the Supply Chain at the Food Bank, Jennifer has been able to manage the movement and accuracy of the inventory, making the process more efficient. One of her major achievements has been to reduce food waste at the bank. She even introduced process improvements while helping the Food Bank grow continuously, achieving the goal of distributing 92million meals 5 years ahead of schedule.
According to Jennifer, there are still gender roles in the 21st century, although in a subtle form. Early in her career, when she had been working in industries with male-dominated leadership teams, she found it difficult to break into the “boys” club. Fighting with such prejudices is one of the biggest challenges she has faced!
Jennifer is aware that her professional skillset is in Project Management, Distribution, Operations, and Supply Chain, but her true passion is feeding people. She has been able to match her skill set to her job function and match her passion to that of her employer. Talking about her passion to feed the needy, she says, “Hunger is defined as a painful sensation or state of weakness caused by the need for food. I add to that definition, ‘something no one deserves to feel’, and that is why it is the goal of my life to help as many people as possible so that they do not go to sleep with an empty stomach“.
She has a message for everyone who dreams of success: “Figure out what you are good at and use that skill to make the world what you want it to be.”