Joe Rodriguez, senior director of operations at the Greater Chicago Food Depository, is known around the food bank for his work ethic, friendliness and can-do spirit. He brings out the best in his teammates and is eager to overcome any logistical challenge to ensure nutritious food reaches our neighbors in need. That’s why Feeding America, the national network of food banks, honored Joe as 2017 Central Region Operations Leader of the Year at its recent Food Sourcing and Operations Conference in Atlanta.
The award recognizes Joe for his impact both at the Food Depository and across the Feeding America network. It also acknowledges everything he does for his team and the community we serve. Each year, only three people in the national network of 200 food banks receive this honor.
“Joe embodies the values of the Food Depository and Feeding America,” said Kate Maehr, executive director and CEO of the Food Depository. “His commitment to feeding hungry people has allowed us to reach new heights in the fight against hunger. We are so grateful.”
Joe’s contributions to the Food Depository and the Feeding America network are abundant in the successes of new partnerships and programs. He was instrumental in the Food Depository’s transition to an all delivery program, which frees up time and resources for food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters across Cook County while strengthening food safety. He was critical to the expansion of Healthy Student Markets at schools and fresh produce distributions at community health centers.
When Feeding America and Starbucks’ FoodShare program came to Chicago this spring, Joe was responsible for developing a plan to rescue food nightly from Starbucks locations. Not only did he successfully implement overnight routes to collect donated food at more than 100 Starbucks locations, he also shared lessons learned to support FoodShare efforts in other cities.
“Joe’s operational leadership has helped the Food Depository expand programs and reach more people in need with nutritious food,” said Sheila Creghin, vice president of operations at the Food Depository. “We are very lucky to have him on our team.”
Joe joined the Food Depository team in 2010 as a CDL driver and has risen through the organization to his current role as senior director of operations. In his view, this award speaks to the strength of the Food Depository team and the importance of the mission.
“We set some very big goals in the last year, but every one of them was critical for the community we serve,” said Joe. “These goals strengthened my team as we worked together and built a stronger sense of trust and commitment. When you enjoy what you do, which is helping people, it doesn’t feel like a job anymore. It becomes second nature.”