Q & A: New Director of North Valley Food Bank, SueAnn Grogan

Our North Valley Food Bank Director, Sue Ann Grogan was recently interviewed by the Whitefish Whistle.

Here is a little excerpt from the interview. You can read the full article here.
Contact SueAnn

SueAnnGrogan

Contact SueAnn at admin@northvalleyfoodbank.org

A:  What is your background and how did you first get involved with the Food Bank in Whitefish?

S:  I am from Whitefish, having moved here with my folks in 1978.  I like to say that I arrived here in the back of my parents station wagon.  I graduated from Whitefish High School in 1982 and then went to Concordia College in Moorehead, MN.  I transferred to MSU and have a degree in Political Science.  Following graduation I joined the Peace Corps where I taught nutrition to women and teenagers in Dos Mangas, Ecuador.

After the Peace Corps, I was hired by Habitat for Humanity in Americus, Georgia.  I worked as a cook for their “Educare” Program, where 100 kids of all ages got free lunch and after school snacks.  The local food bank served a vital role in our program by providing a variety of food that helped keep the costs down.  I loved that job, and the kids loved me back.  One day at Educare, a teacher told me that my son had not eaten his broccoli because the other kids told him it was gross.  I knew my kid liked broccoli, so I marched down to the classroom and taught the whole class how to eat it like a dinosaur!  We set the broccoli up like small trees, put our hands behind our backs, and mowed those trees down like we were dinosaurs.  When the teacher told them to eat their greens, they growled like a dinosaur and chomped them up!

After working at Educare for about one year, I was again hired by Habitat for Humanity to be an International Partner.   We moved to Papua New Guinea in 1993 to help build houses.  During my three years in Papua New Guinea, we built over 75 homes for local communities.   The work started literally from the ground up; we harvested trees and milled lumber ourselves.

In 1995, we moved back to Whitefish to put my son through school and have been here ever since.  For the last 15 years, I have worked in affordable housing in Whitefish and have a track record as an advocate for the underserved.  Although I am new to the food bank world, I applied for this job because it speaks to my core.  I do not ask myself anymore, “Why do I serve?” but I do ask, “How can I serve better every day?”

A:  What are the biggest challenges surrounding food access in the Valley?

S:  Being such a new Director, I can only provide my opinion.  I think the cost of good, nutritious food is the biggest challenge.  Junk food is cheap, and processed food is plentiful.  Perhaps it is the same challenge I faced 24 years ago in the Peace Corps.  The 4-H group would use our scarce dollars to buy Coca Cola when we had plentiful fruit trees to make juice.  Junk food entices us, and we spend our dollars on the convenience instead of preparing nutritious food from scratch.

A:  How is the food bank going to increase access to local, nutritious food to those who need it the most?  After all highly processed industrial food is the cheapest and sometimes the local, healthy food is the most expensive.

S:  That is THE question.  The NVFB (North Valley Food Bank) will work with the local community gardens and will encourage gardeners to share their excesses with us.  With our new building, we have plans to teach classes in food preparation, canning, basic nutrition, and so much more.  We will also work to include more fresh fruit and vegetables into weekly food distribution.  Finally, we plan to start sharing recipes on our website and FaceBook and also put hard copies directly into weekly food boxes.

A:  Does the Food Bank have any plans to install a community garden?  

S:  There is talk, but at this time we are working with the community gardens to donate excess yield.  We also glean after the Farmer’s Market, and many the local farmers and gardeners are extremely generous.

A:  How can the general public get involved aside from the donation of food?

S:  We have over 80 volunteers, and they are fantastic!  We rely on them to pack the food boxes, to come up with recipes, to hold down the office, etc.  Volunteers even helped building our new building!  They butcher road kill, donate meat, distribute food, deliver food boxes to the elderly and disabled, and so many other tasks.  June Munski, our founder, did a great job of recruiting and utilizing volunteers, and that is my number one priority.  Volunteers even cut my paycheck and manage the finances of NVFB.

READ THE FULL Q & A with SueAnn at Whitefish Whistle Website.