April 10, 2017

Amy Pezzani, Food Bank for Larimer County

2017 Women of Distinction - Nonprofit, Human Services

The Food Bank for Larimer County provides good meals for more than 36,000 people every year. Unlike most nonprofits, the Food Bank maintains an inventory, a fleet of trucks and the task of going into communities to actually collect what it provides: food donations.

Because of the organization’s unique way of doing business, it needs to be marketed differently as well, according to Amy Pezzani, its chief executive.

“Often, nonprofits are hesitant to try things that for-profits try because of the cost of expertise,” she said. “We, however, are successful with market penetration because we have social marketing accounts and a way for people to make online donations. We also have someone in charge of communications who keeps our message tied to our goals.”

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The food bank collects donations from Larimer County, the state and nation. Its trucks go out every morning to local grocers, which provide 35 percent of the food distributed. “The other side of that is that if we didn’t do that, the food would go to the landfill.”

On a national level, the food bank partners with groups such as Feeding America. This national network of food banks pulls together food for more than 46 million people through 60,000 food pantries and meal programs.

Like a clearinghouse, Feeding America matches food sources with food distributors. “For example, they would pair a farmer in California who has a truckload of strawberries with a nearby food bank,” Pezzani said.

She often refers to her “great team” as a main reason for Larimer County Food Bank’s success.  “It’s easy to get discouraged as a nonprofit because you see a lot of need,” she said, “so it’s important to focus on both big and small successes.”

To keep that in front of herself and the team, Pezzani reminds them that no one will ever come to them without leaving with good food. “The single best way to motivate our team is to remind them that they’re helping us do that,” she said.

One of the biggest challenges the Food Bank currently faces is the external economic factors that are increasing, said Pezzani. “Rents raised 41 percent over the past five years, and Larimer County is number one in the country for the highest day-care costs.

“It costs more to have a child in day care here than to put them through CSU for a year.”

People ask her what she does to help people get beyond needing the food her organization provides, and she tells them that those people are doing everything they can but those two factors keep driving people back to their doors.

To make sure the Food Bank stays viable, Pezzani strategically evaluates data, stays within budget rather than starting new programs that don’t have enough funding or staff, and stays focused on the mission of ending hunger.

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