IOWA CITY — As the executive director of a food rescue organization. Nicki Ross faces challenges at work aren’t like those others have.
For her, problems mean getting 8,000 pounds of yogurt distributed to food pantries and other organizations in just four days’ time.
“We call it ‘selling.’ You know, driving around with a truck full of yogurt or whatever the thing is and stopping at all your recipients and saying, ‘You really want some of this don’t you?’” Ross said, adding that her organization did end up getting all that yogurt distributed.
Ross now is nearing her anniversary of solving delicious challenges as the executive director of Table to Table, a nonprofit that transports donated food to local agencies that generally help those who are hungry or at risk of going hungry.
Moving forward, she said she hopes to better identify the needs of partner organization and increase its collection of fresh foods like meat, produce and dairy.
“She’s a real asset for our organization,” said Ann Donahue, chairwoman of the organization’s board of directors. “Table to Table had a great brand or people thought well of us, but I think she’s getting this message out to more people and they can see the good we do in the community,”
Ross, 35, has spent most of her career in nonprofits, with the exception of two years at a technology company. Previously, she served as a program director for a Boys and Girls Club and for the traditional housing program at the Catherine McAuley Center,
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“It’s a challenge. You’re still helping lead an organization just like you would a company but the payoff, rather than profit, is the profit to your community,” Ross said. “It makes it a lot easier to get up in the morning to come into work and want to be here to see what kind of impact you’re making.”
While this is Ross’ first experience working with a food insecurity organization, she said the issue often touches every type of social service. When she worked at the Boys and Girls Club, she said the lunch or snack the organization served in the summers often would be the only meal kids ate during the day.
"The payoff, rather than profit, is the profit to your community...It makes it a lot easier to get up in the morning to come into work and want to be here to see what kind of impact you’re making.”
- Nicki Ross
Executive Director, Table to Table
“I’ve always been involved in the idea of helping folks secure a healthy wholesome meal, even if we were providing peripheral services unrelated to food insecurity,” Ross said. “Food insecurity is fairly universal.”
In the last year, Ross said she’s worked to better brand Table to Table. She said she also wants the community to understand it’s a professionally run provider.
Donahue said Ross has been working to help take Table to Table from the small, grass-roots nonprofit to a “sophisticated organization” by identifying the strengths of volunteers and staff members and getting them in the proper roles.
“That is the backbone of the organization,” Ross said. “You want folks to know that your organization is well-run, well-managed, efficient. The truth is all of those things were true prior to me coming here. It’s just a matter of helping our community to better understand that.”
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