A Conversation withSiti Suci Larasati, chief executive officer, Aksata Pangan – Food Bank of Medan
At The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), our mission is to ensure people across the world have access to safe, nutritious food for themselves and their families. More than half of those around the world who experience severe hunger are women. The gender gap in food security is complex and closely associated with women’s access to economic resources, cultural and political challenges, and family obligations.
Female leaders around the globe are working hard every day to address this inequity. Sixty percent of GFN’s food banking partner organizations are led by women. These food banks play a unique role in improving women’s access to wholesome food and addressing the root causes of women’s food insecurity. GFN sat down with Siti Suci Larasati, chief executive officer of Aksata Pangan – Food Bank of Medan in Indonesia to discuss her journey as a young female leader, the importance of women in leadership in food banking and food systems change, and how women connect with and serve their communities.
GFN: Let’s start with learning a little bit about you. How did start your journey working in food banking? What drew you to this work?
Larasati: My journey started with a simple activity. In 2018, I was looking to make a difference for my community, so I brought together a group of like-minded friends, and we created a food sharing community called Food Truck Sedekah. We would collect donations from food distributors whose fresh produce items were good and nutritious to eat but not profitable to sell because of their size or appearance. We saw the potential to grow this work to help reduce food loss and conducted the feasibility analysis for starting a food bank. From there, in 2022, we transformed this youth-led community project into the food bank that is now Aksata Pangan in Medan. We are growing and learning day by day. We started this without any background or education in food systems or nutrition, but we are learning together, doing what we love.
Volunteers and staff from Aksata Pangan distribute fresh produce and food parcels in Medan City. (Photo: Aksata Pangan)
GFN: Can you tell us about Aksata Pangan and your focus areas?
Larasati: Recently we have been working with the bakeries in five JW Marriott Hotels in Medan to rescue their surplus food each day with the help of our dedicated volunteers. We also have partnerships with local packing houses to procure fresh produce and with manufacturing facilities for nonperishable foods. Most of the large corporations and facilities are in Jakarta, so we partner with FoodCycle Indonesia to get more food to Medan and our surrounding communities. We collect, sort, and redistribute food through 20 frontline organizations that get the food to individuals and families in low-income communities in 16 of Medan’s 24 districts. Last year, we started an awareness campaign to help inform the public about our food bank and to help educate the community about the larger issues we are working to solve like food loss and waste and climate change.
GFN: What unique perspectives do you women in leadership bring to food banking?
Larasati: It can be really helpful to have women leading an organization because they understand the community and the unique needs of mothers and families. As part of our Food Heroes program, we partner with a local orphanage, which is run by a female leader. We have found that, specifically for those organizations that are directly serving the community, women in leadership have a unique ability to connect with the people they serve as women and mothers and are excellent at solving big problems and mobilizing resources to reduce hunger and create stronger communities. I personally feel that being a woman food banker has helped me speak more confidently about food banking and understand the gender gap in food security. It has also made me a good listener who can more effectively relate to the needs of my community.
Aksata Pangan food bank staff attend GFN's Asia Pacific Food Bank Conference in late 2023 to exchange best practices, gain training, and develop relationships with other Network members in the region, including Foodbank Australia. (Photo: Lauren DeCicca)
GFN:Why is it important to have women in leadership roles to reduce hunger around the globe?
Larasati: Having more women in leadership roles is so important to reducing hunger around the globe. Because I believe women play a crucial role in our food systems. Women are most often the hard drivers and decision-makers in their families when it comes to managing family needs and resources. When women are empowered and have access to resources, they can better nourish their families. And more women in leadership positions will inspire other young women and girls to create positive change in their communities.
GFN: What are your hopes or goals as you look forward to the year ahead?
Larasati: I want to expand our reach and impact; to increase food donations, enhance food recovery and distribution, and empower more volunteers; and to reach all those in need in Medan and the surrounding areas. I would also like to focus on better tracking and reporting to see us grow to become a model for food system transformation and climate action in Medan. And to see this work become a movement, across Indonesia and beyond.