Foodbank president and CEO to resign

Published 5:58 pm Tuesday, September 14, 2021

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Jones Nichols to fight hunger, its root causes at national level

The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore recently announced the resignation of its president and CEO, Dr. Ruth Jones Nichols, effective Oct. 15. 

Ruth Jones Nichols

The Foodbank press release added that following almost six years of service at the Foodbank, Jones Nichols has accepted a position based in Washington, D.C., with Feeding America that will allow her to support a national movement focused on ending hunger and addressing its root causes. 

Officials in the Foodbank release noted that under Jones Nichols’ transformational leadership, the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore has evolved from feeding people experiencing hunger to also implementing innovative solutions for addressing disparities in food insecurity, particularly by race and geography. She has been instrumental in forging a myriad of strategic partnerships and establishing forward-thinking initiatives, such as The Community Feed, Western Tidewater Branch and Community Produce Hub, The Food Hubs and more recently the 757 Mobile Markets.  

“Ruth’s vision, leadership and ability to galvanize support for people facing hunger has resulted in tremendous growth for the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore,” Foodbank Board Chair Tonya Wally said in the release. “Finding another leader to continue our growth trajectory and momentum will not be an easy task, but it is one of our greatest opportunities.” 

The Foodbank’s board of directors will work with an executive search firm to launch a national recruitment process for the organization’s next president and CEO. Additionally, the board of directors will appoint an external consultant to serve as interim president and CEO during the leadership transition — enabling the existing Executive Leadership Team to continue implementing goals and priorities outlined in the Foodbank’s Refreshed Strategic Plan. 

“As the organization celebrates 40 years of service and goes through a process of ‘reimagining’ the future, I am confident it’s the right time for me to transition and create a pathway for new leadership,” Jones Nichols said in the release. “My decision to leave the Foodbank was grounded in a belief that we have a worthy mission, strong team, reputable brand, stable finances and impactful programs that are ensuring equitable access to healthy, nutritious food for vulnerable people each day. I am incredibly proud of the work we have accomplished, together, and I know there is still much more to do.”

Jones Nichols has been named chief movement officer at Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. She officially joins the organization Nov. 1 in this newly created position that oversees external affairs and communication.

“My position will be largely focused on catalyzing a national movement to end hunger and address its root causes, so, really looking at how we engage community members and our neighbors who are facing hunger in the creation of solutions as opposed to Feeding America or a local food bank going into a community and saying, ‘This is what this community needs,’” Jones Nichols told The Tidewater News.

When asked for Franklin- and Southampton County-centric highlights from her time in the Foodbank president and CEO roles, Jones Nichols pointed to the Western Tidewater Branch and Community Produce Hub, slated to open in 2022 at 618 South St. in Franklin. Its first floor will provide healthy food offerings, and its second floor will attend to people’s needs beyond food, including helping them address the root causes of hunger.

“I think 618 is the epitome of what we would like to see when it comes to offering transformational approaches for people who are facing hunger,” she said. “It’s important that we take the time to listen and learn from community members about their biggest challenges as well as their biggest hopes and aspirations. That’s always been important to me as a professional, and it’s what we’ve taken the time to do at the Foodbank.”