The following op-ed was written by President | CEO Teri Hansen and published by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on May 7, 2023.
There is no other way to describe Sandra Frank’s time at All Faiths Food Bank.
This unsung community hero has turned the approach to hunger on its ear and, after 11 years at the helm, she is in the process of passing the reins to a successor. The new CEO will walk into a highly sophisticated operation with an extraordinary staff that uses evidence-based programming and expansive data to combat hunger, which did not exist at All Faiths when Sandra took over.
Under her leadership, All Faiths has become a model for food banks, especially in the areas of focusing the community on hunger as a major health issue, in evaluation and data as drivers and in addressing rural health needs.
Sandra would have it no other way. She has moved the food bank to where it is today using sophisticated strategies, supporting evidence and data.
That is not surprising given Sandra’s background which, in her earlier days, focused on health and medicine. She has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Wayne State University and a law degree from Michigan State University. Michigan’s governor recruited Sandra to work on access to health care, and her expertise aided her efforts to improve that state’s Medicaid program and emphasize maternal and child health.
Blending that health policy background into All Faiths’ work was a natural that has been hugely beneficial to tens of thousands of our neighbors who struggle with hunger and the broader health issues related to it. And our food bank being a pioneer in pediatric food insecurity screening is part of its effort to address the underlying causes of hunger. That’s because of Sandra Frank’s transformative leadership.
Sandra is leaving her successor with a new strategic plan. The plan:
- Seeks to advance insight into how to meet the unique needs of neighbors experiencing hunger.
- Builds a reimagined supply chain that tailors delivery to neighbors’ needs.
- Positions food and wraparound services that help get at the root causes of hunger, bringing financial stability and economic security for food insecure neighbors.
- Builds partnerships around the region to combat hunger.
Under Sandra’s leadership, All Faith’s scale has grown enormously. Just last year, it sourced, managed and distributed enough food to provide more than 18 million meals. That’s an average of 49,315 meals a day, 365 days a year. Right here in our community. That is correct – in our community.
All Faiths Food Bank CEO Sandra Frank recently announced she will retire at the end of this year.
I had the pleasure of being on the search committee that hired Sandra.
I recall that her interview was less about food-banking and more of a conversation about nonprofit leadership, strategic planning, board governance and integral evidence-based work. We liked what we heard. We figured she just might be a transformative leader. And we got that right.
Sandra also changed All Faiths’ model for fundraising, ending the traditional-events-and-galas approach and focusing much more on individual donors, knowing they want to see results.
A child hunger study in 2013 helped set the stage for innovative fundraising. The study results were shocking and flew in the face of what many had perceived for a community as well-heeled as Sarasota, which led to the launch of the food bank’s “Campaign Against Summer Hunger.”
The summer hunger campaign provides food to students and their siblings during the summer months when school is out. Since then, the effort has raised more than $14 million and feeds more than 35,000 children every summer.
These are children in our community.
Sandra has helped the community understand that hunger is not “over there.” People who are hungry are our neighbors and could easily be any of us given a change in circumstances.
The pandemic was a painful example as it brought people who had not traditionally sought help from the food bank – middle-class families who lost their jobs – which tested the food bank like never before.
Prior to the pandemic, Sandra had a conversation with a close donor who warned her that she needed to prepare for being part of a national crisis. Fortunately, Sandra took the donor at his word, and with his support All Faiths preordered food on a massive scale. During the pandemic, demand for All Faith’s services soared 60% for meals and 53% in terms of clients.
Saving graces were the food bank’s innovative mobile pantries, which could take food directly to isolated families, and its seasoned volunteers. Though many could not help, an experienced core of volunteers was willing to stand their posts – alongside the organization’s dedicated and tireless staff – and keep the work going.
Sandra’s team met every day for an entire month, and the food bank doubled down as its work became a critical cornerstone of stability and recovery during the crisis. That’s leadership. That’s Sandra Frank.
As the transformative leader she is, Sandra is excited about guiding All Faiths through the change in leadership. She had planned for a departure before the pandemic but COVID upended that notion. And then came Hurricane Ian, which provided another difficult testing ground for the food bank.
Merely hours after Ian passed, All Faiths’ trucks were on the road delivering much-needed food and water to those whose homes were destroyed. While most roads were impassable, her team found other routes to get the supplies where there were none. It seems that, like Sandra, the food bank never wavers.
Through all of this, Sandra can begin her next chapter knowing that her team and her organization have become stronger by having weathered these recent storms, both figurative and literal.
Sandra Frank’s leadership has elevated the food bank and enriched our community. From all of us at Barancik Foundation and a grateful community, thank you, Sandra.