Meet a Food Banker: Shay Kovacs

Next up for our Meet a Food Banker series is Shay! Shay has been at the food bank for almost 8 years, read below to get to know more about her!

What do you do at the food bank?

I am the Programs Manager and I am responsible for overseeing and helping with the implementation for our non-traditional food programs. That includes things like our Mobile Food Pantry program, our Gather 2 Grow summer feeding program and our government reimbursable programs like CSFP. My average day consists of checking on the process for each of these programs. For instance, our Mobile Pantry program happens daily so I will maintain the schedules and make sure the agencies have everything they need. I also work with new agencies to get them trained and prepared to distribute food in compliance with our policies and procedures. Finally, I am always working to answer questions that our agencies may have in order to support their efforts.

How did you end up in this role?

My background is in legal; I was a paralegal for a lot of years. I started out in family law but eventually ended up working with corporate law which I didn’t like as much. The firm that I was working at ended up downsizing which left me looking for a new role. I had a human rights emphasis in college and I saw there was an opportunity here at the food bank for a Nutrition Education Assistant, so I ended up taking it! The role was grant funded though, so I knew it would eventually expire. While I was in that role, I learned as much as I could and noticed that there wasn’t anyone acting as the liaison between floor staff and our partner agencies. There wasn’t anyone communicating and dealing with agencies’ concerns. I ended up doing that type of work on my own and after that role expired, they ended up making a position for me to continue acting as that liaison.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

I’ve never worked with a group of people that are more passionate and driven about what they do; we have an exceptional group of staff that are incredibly talented and diverse in the ways that they go about caring our their neighbors in need. It’s very inspiring and keeps me motivated and excited to go to work. Even on the bad days I can lean into the team atmosphere. Ultimately, we’re here to serve the community and help relieve some of the stress people feel in their lives, and being able to do that with a bunch of people who believe that food is a right, not a privilege, is a wonderful experience.

Any standout memories?

I had been working here for about a month and had been going to a lot of Mobile Pantries in person doing nutrition education demos. I started in February, so it was really cold and there was a lot of snow. I was at a school distribution that was run entirely by the student body, and it was snowing and freezing. All of the students at that school were from high-need, at-risk families. The distribution was over and the kids were getting food for them to take home to their families, and a family showed up at the last minute. One teenage girl went over to her own food that she was going to take home and she took out some cupcakes and she gave it to the mom and dad and their twin girls to take home. I asked her why she did that and she said that they’ve already had to give up enough and she didn’t think they should have to miss out on anything else. To watch someone so young, who had so little, give to someone else without hesitation really moved me. It is the reason I keep coming back. It’s amazing to see.

What motivates you to fight hunger?

As a parent, I want to give my children a better world. In a country like this where we throw away so much food that people actually need, we have a moral obligation to provide for those in need.

What do you like to do in your free time?

My family are big outdoorsy people, so we camp and hike and paddleboard often. I also enjoy reading, painting and writing!