In the past six years, Second Harvest Food Bank has grown tremendously under the leadership of Tyra Jackson. This week, we celebrated Tyra’s six-year anniversary as the Executive Director of Second Harvest Food Bank.
Just last year, Tyra helped the food bank become an independent nonprofit organization and navigate the COVID-19 pandemic when food insecurity rates were at their highest. In addition to securing countless grants for our facilities and programs, Tyra is also an outspoken advocate for food policy and food access in our community. As the face of Second Harvest Food Bank, Tyra champions the work of the food bank by partnering with different organizations and working to provide healthy, nutritious food to our partner agencies (pantries, churches, etc.) and directly to our community members.
To celebrate this special anniversary, we asked Tyra some questions to catch a glimpse of her many highlights from her time with Second Harvest.
What did you do before working at Second Harvest Food Bank?
I have always worked in the nonprofit sector for over 20 years. I have worked mainly for social service agencies but also at school districts.
What has been your favorite part about working at SHFB?
In all of my positions, I typically work with one specific population. At Second Harvest, you serve everyone. We partner with just about every type of service organization. It is great to work collaboratively to reduce food insecurity in our community.
Do you have a favorite memory that sticks out from your 6 years at SHFB?
I believe becoming an independent nonprofit last year stands out. I am incredibly proud of the work our board and community did to keep the food bank local.
What has been the most challenging part about working at SHFB and how have you navigated that?
Culture change and shifting mindsets. Working at nonprofits and social services for 20 years, one of my main goals when starting at SHFB was to focus more on people and less on the pounds of food received. Less on the numbers of meals served and more on the quality of food we were providing. Navigating this hasn’t been an easy task either. My approach is to involve staff in decisions, allow them to play a larger role, let them have ownership in the end result. It has been hard to get people to see their opinions and ideas are important and valued.
What motivates and inspires you to keep working at SHFB?
There are a lot of people who need assistance. There are people who depend on us to be there each day. Even when we have rough days, I will receive a call and someone will tell me what it meant for our staff to deliver the fresh produce to their door or take the time to help them fill out their CSFP application. People. That is what inspires and motivates me.
Can you list some of the biggest projects/accomplishments/changes the food bank has undergone in your tenure as Executive Director?
- Building improvements (new roof)
- Passing AIB Audits
- Passing Feeding America Audits
- Becoming an Independent Non-profit
- People-focus approach to serving
What are you most excited about for the future of SHFB? Are there any areas of growth or special projects coming up that you want to share?
We are really focusing on food as health. We are developing partnerships with health organizations to work on health initiatives.
We are working on programming to shorten the line. We will always provide food, but we are also developing programming to assist people with stabilizing their households.
We are also working on programming that addresses equity. We are moving away from the “one size fits all” approach and really working with individuals and families as unique individuals.
Not a day goes by where Tyra’s impact at Second Harvest Food Bank and in the community isn’t felt. Her leadership has helped SHFB thrive and feed thousands of households and families in Clark, Champaign, and Logan Counties. Thank you, Tyra, for everything you have done for Second Harvest and our community over the past six years!