From Food Bank Novice to Food Bank Champion: Q&A with Jason Ramey
When Jason Ramey first joined The Global FoodBanking Network’s (GFN) Board in 2013, he was new to the world of food banking, particularly at an international scale. Since that time, he has traveled to more than nine countries, visiting food banks all over the world and becoming a passionate advocate for the food bank model. Starting as the Chair of the Audit Committee, Ramey held leadership positions throughout his tenure, eventually serving as Board Chair from 2019-2022. Ramey currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Kellogg & Sovereign Consulting, which has a mission to improve the quality of lives by connecting schools, libraries, and health care providers with advanced telecommunications and information services by arranging funding. Prior to that, he served on the Global Leadership Team of accounting firm Grant Thornton International. As Ramey’s Board term comes to an end, we sat down with him to discuss his time as Board Chair, his ever-growing passion for food banks, and his hope for the future of food banking. The Global FoodBanking Network: How did you first learn about food banking and GFN? Jason Ramey: In 2013, I was at Grant Thornton and the connection was made by GFN’s legal team at DLA Piper. If we are being honest, I had not heard of GFN, and I knew very little about food banks. But I had extensive international experience in accounting, and Grant Thornton was set up structurally very similar to GFN and its Network of food banks. That was really my first connection to food banks, especially globally, and at my first board meeting, I discovered I had a lot to learn. You served in a variety of leadership positions during your time on the Board, eventually taking over as Board Chair in 2019. What has been your proudest moment? When I accepted the role of Board Chair in 2019, there was no way of knowing how much the world was about to change. The first meeting I chaired was over Zoom in March 2020, when the entire world had come to a stop. And that was when I saw the major shift at GFN. We had just set this massive North Star goal of reaching 50 million people by 2030, and now the organization is faced with this entirely new set of challenges. I was incredibly proud of the leadership team we had in place during that time. They were quickly able to take control and lead the organization in the right direction. It will always be one of my greatest accomplishments to have been part of GFN during that time in history. How have you seen the context of food banking change during your time with GFN? Very publicly, we have all seen the impact of food banks over the last several years, first in response to COVID-19, then the war in Ukraine, and the global cost-of-living crisis that followed. Day after day, food banks have continued to step up in times of crisis. I have been honored to be able to watch and then help guide the changes being made at GFN from the inside to make that possible. The role of the Board, really, is to let the organization and its leaders do their job and be their support system. The leadership team has an incredible vision for the future, and that is seen laid out in the new strategic plan, with a focus on continuing to support the Network of food banks, expanding our reach to help nascent food banking organizations, and focusing on key areas like nutrition, food loss and waste, and crisis response. Because of this long-term vision planning, I imagine that food banks will continue to be poised to reach those facing hunger. It sounds like food banking has become a part of your life the last nine years; How will you continue to champion food banking after you leave the board? Food banking will continue to follow me wherever I go. It will feel strange to step away after it being such a huge part of my life for so long. When I moved to Dallas, I was introduced to the director of the North Texas Food Bank, and I’m already trying to figure out ways I can get involved. It’s incredibly important for people of many different backgrounds and professions to come together to support hunger initiatives like food banking. I remember that being one of the reasons they asked me to step in as Chair, they said, “You’re not a food banker, you have this independent perspective and way of looking at the work we do,” and I really appreciated that. I will continue to advocate to my colleagues and connections outside of the food security space to engage with food banks and to support these locally led hunger solutions. I am certain that once I finish my time on the Board, I will continue to follow GFN’s work and will always be one of the organization’s biggest supporters. Do you have any parting words as you roll off the Board? First, I’d like to give some parting words to Carol Criner, my Vice Chair and Board Chair successor. There is a right time and place for every person, and right now she is the right person to support GFN on this journey. She has great leadership skills and great experience from her impressive career. She’s got a lot of respect from folks, and I think she will continue to question and challenge the organization to help it grow and succeed. To supporters and donors, this is a high-quality organization, run and supported by high-quality people. GFN has continued to attract top talent internally and has a great Board of Directors behind it. There is a bright future for anybody associated with GFN right now, and I hope you continue to find ways to support the organization. And lastly to the team at GFN, keep doing what you’re doing. You have had tremendous successes, and I applaud you for that. It’s been an honor to be a part of the organization’s history.