The Food Depot Announces Jill Dixon to Serve as Executive Director

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 11,  2024

SANTA FE— The Food Depot’s Board of Directors announced today that Jill Dixon will succeed Sherry Hooper as the Executive Director of The Food Depot, Northern New Mexico’s Food Bank. Dixon, who has been with the food bank since 2012, will assume the lead role, effective July 1, 2024. 

Dixon currently serves as the Deputy Director of The Food Depot, a leadership role she has held since 2021. Len Rand, president of The Food Depot’s Board of Directors, expressed enthusiasm about the transition, stating, “We are pleased to announce this appointment. Jill brings a wealth of experience and a deep commitment to the communities we serve. She has been dedicated to The Food Depot for over a decade and has the full support of the board in her new role.” 

Dixon joined The Food Depot in 2012 as the organization’s first Development Director. One of her early successes was the “Building Hope” capital campaign for the warehouse in Santa Fe. Her continuous focus on providing healthy food and vital resources to families in New Mexico resulted in the development of many of The Food Depot’s innovative programs, all of which impact thousands of lives each day. Dixon oversaw the creation of multiple key programs, including The Food Depot’s Casita de Comida, Resource Navigation, Diaper Depot, Food 4 Pets, and The Food Mobile. As Deputy Director, she also guided the nonprofit through the development of its current strategic plan, which will lead The Food Depot through 2025. 

“I am so grateful for Jill’s leadership and the many wonderful years we have worked together,” says Sherry Hooper, the current Executive Director. “I know The Food Depot’s future is in capable hands.” 

“I would like to thank the board of directors for this opportunity,” says Dixon. “The Food Depot holds such a pivotal role in this community. It is an honor to serve our communities in such a profound way. I look forward to continuing to build on the initiatives and partnerships Sherry Hooper and I started together.” 

Dixon will succeed Sherry Hooper, The Food Depot’s longtime Executive Director, who assumed the leadership role in 2001. Hooper’s final day at The Food Depot is June 30, 2024. 


The Food Depot’s Executive Director Sherry Hooper to Retire

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 22, 2024

Following a long career of dedicated service to Northern New Mexico families, Sherry Hooper has elected to retire as Executive Director of The Food Depot effective June 30, 2024, after more than 22 years at the food bank. A transition committee is actively seeking a qualified individual to serve as The Food Depot’s next executive director. 

Hooper, who started with The Food Depot in September of 2001, is the longest-serving executive director in the food bank’s history.  Prior to her arrival in 2001, Hooper spent ten years at Harvesters Food Bank in Kansas City, MO, her hometown. Ensuring food security for others has been the work of her lifetime. 

“Leading The Food Depot has been one of my greatest joys. Every day I’ve had the opportunity to work with a community dedicated to providing healthy food to so many children and families. Northern New Mexico is now my second home, and I could not be more proud of the change we have made together,” says Hooper. 

Hooper’s vision for The Food Depot has been transformational. From a small organization operating from a warehouse less than 5,000 square feet, Hooper led the nonprofit through a capital campaign to construct the food bank’s current building in Santa Fe. Today, The Food Depot warehouse occupies 27,000 square feet, distributing over 9 million pounds of food annually through the hard work of 41 staff members and a corps of 708 active volunteers. Innovative programs, ambitious strategic plans, and strong partnerships have become the cornerstones of The Food Depot under Hooper’s pursuit for a truly hunger free Northern New Mexico. Her leadership has empowered the food bank to pivot and grow to meet crippling levels of need across a pandemic, natural disasters, and rising inflation. 

Today, The Food Depot stands as a Tried and True organization in Northern New Mexico, reliably providing food security to more than 40,000 people in nine counties. Hooper demands that The Food Depot follow the words of Desmond Tutu: “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.” The Food Depot’s work now includes a focus on connecting people to wraparound services to more adequately address their needs, as well as a focus on advocacy that encourages systemic change. 

“Sherry is a remarkable person,” says David Barton, current board member and former President of The Food Depot Board of Directors. “Her energy,  intelligence and compassion are an inspiration. What a privilege to work with her for so many wonderful years.” 

As an indicator of her skills as a leader, Hooper has intentionally surrounded herself with a diverse and talented group of individuals ready to continue her legacy. The Food Depot’s current strategic plan was adopted in 2021 and will guide the organization through 2026. 

The Food Depot’s Board of Directors has appointed a dedicated transition committee to explore highly qualified individuals to fill the executive director position within the next several months. The Food Depot’s full leadership team is committed to providing their continued, steady leadership throughout the search and selection process. 

“The Food Depot is dedicated to our network of community partners and the people we serve,” assures Len Rand, current President of The Food Depot’s Board of Directors. “Sherry has made a tremendous impact on this organization. As part of the transition committee, I am confident we will appoint an executive director who will lead the food bank with the same wisdom and determination.” 

Over the Food Depot plans to host several scheduled opportunities for donors, partners, and the community to celebrate Sherry’s incredible impact on Northern New Mexico. Community members are encouraged to send Sherry a handwritten card to The Food Depot with a note of appreciation. Cards should be mailed to 1222 A Siler Road, Santa Fe, NM 87507.


The Food Depot takes a laudable leap of faith

By Phill Casaus pcasaus@sfnewmexican.com
Mar 26, 2022 Updated May 1, 2023

One of the gutsier moves around Santa Fe in the past several months took place at The Food Depot, which for years has been fighting to stave off hunger in Northern New Mexico with persistence, pluck and a near-maniacal devotion to mission.

No one can argue the organization is unsuccessful: It distributed 10.5 million pounds of food in 2021, averaging about 737,627 meals each month. In a part of the world wracked by poverty and pandemic, it answered the call throughout the crisis. People worked through vacations and days off; badly needed if not life-giving food deliveries were made on weekends. Sacrifices, big and small, were real.

“I’m so proud of us and our staff,” said Food Depot Deputy Director Jill Dixon, assessing the past two years. “The Food Depot came and stood up for the community. And I stand by that. But it doesn’t mean we can’t do it better.”

And so, with those words echoing every day, comes a very large and daunting next step. With plenty of introspection and little fanfare, The Food Depot basically tore up its old model of operation and said, more or less: Let’s really aim big.

In the coming months and years, The Food Depot — its fiscal year ’22 budget is $8.1 million — plans to change how it operates, transforming from an organization that largely provided “indirect service” to one that aggressively and strategically seeks out hunger in a hands-on way with better-aimed efforts.

In short, The Food Depot is not merely going to deliver food, Dixon said. It’s going to seek more information from its clients about what the “right” food is and creatively figure out ways to make sure those offerings get into the right hands at the right time.

Coming in July, to Española: the launch of a free grocery store concept that will have items hungry people can select as if they were going to Smith’s or Albertsons. That doesn’t mean Casita de Comida will have the selection a regular store would provide, but it will offer more options and opportunities to those who need them. The pilot, assuming it’s successful, could roll out at a later date to other cities as well, including Santa Fe, Las Vegas, N.M., and Raton.

Coming in 2023: a contraption known as Foodmobile Dos, the next generation of the depot’s Big Blue Bus that delivered food to hungry communities in the area. The bus is nice, Dixon says, but the next iteration is a custom-ordered semi-trailer, with 900 square feet of interior space that can serve 250 households as soon as it pulls into a parking lot, or in the case of a lot of Northern New Mexico locales, dirt road.

Under a new strategic plan, approved by The Food Depot’s board of directors, the new way of doing business is extensive and more involved than just those two examples, Dixon said. But it’s indicative of the changes — both in thought and action — wrought by the pandemic.

Dixon said the first signs that change would be coming arrived when many of The Food Depot’s partners — often, nonprofits that relied on older volunteers to take Food Depot offerings and get them to clients — could not actually deliver the food due to the health risks.

“We ran into the ‘How is food going to get to Mora County this month?’ thing,” Dixon recounted. “If the one person who executes it gets COVID, what do you do?”

But there were other signs as well. One came home to Dixon as she spoke with an elderly woman about a food distribution during the pandemic. The woman was grateful and thankful because she, like all too many in this country, didn’t have another option. But the apples Dixon provided? She couldn’t eat them because of the state of her teeth.

“It makes you take a step back,” Dixon said. “We had done so much in terms of logistics … we’d loaded thousands of pounds of food. But never for a second did I think: Is this food right for the people we’re serving?”

Going forward, she said, The Food Depot plans to talk with its food recipients, hear them out, about the food they need, not just the food they get. Simple questions, such as, “If you could choose 10 items, what would they be?” could help the organization make better choices on where, when and how to help. And with the difficulties faced by nonprofits during the pandemic, The Food Depot may have to lead the charge on hunger, not just be the armory.

Northern New Mexico’s food bank is not the first in the country to give this new reality a whirl; the ideas have been tried outside the state. But in a place where hurdles are high and real, the thought that The Food Depot would eschew safety for ambition is laudable. Not everyone would try it.

“Our discomfort,” Dixon replies, “is in the best interest of people who are trusting us.”

Phill Casaus is editor of The New Mexican

 

https://www.santafenewmexican.com/opinion/local_columns/the-food-depot-takes-a-laudable-leap-of-faith/article_dce17f72-abba-11ec-8c71-6f675d6d6d43.html