What’s Ahead for GFN: Insights from New GFN Board Chair, Carol Criner
January 23, 2023
The Global FoodBanking Network’s Board of Directors plays an essential role in advising GFN’s strategy to alleviate hunger and reduce food loss and waste. In January, Carol Criner stepped into her role of Board Chair, bringing over seven years of engagement on GFN’s Board and deep expertise in strategic partnerships, technology, and entrepreneurship.
Carol currently serves as Vice President of Strategic Accounts with HCL Technologies, a multinational information technology services and consulting company. As GFN’s Board transitions and the organization enters a new strategic plan, we sat down with the new Board Chair to discuss what’s ahead for GFN and why food banking is important to her.
GFN: How did you learn about GFN, and what sparked your interest in our work?
Carol Criner: I met with GFN’s co-founder, Bill Rudnick, in 2015. He, alongside other veteran food bankers in the U.S., Argentina, Mexico, and Canada, had a shared vision of alleviating hunger through strengthening and advancing food banks around the world. Bill’s passion for food banking and the organization was contagious.
Although I had volunteered at food banks throughout my growing up, I did not fully realize the impact of food banks on local communities until engaging with GFN. Food banks fill gaps in social protections and bridge the goals of hunger alleviation and climate change mitigation. They provide much more than meals—food banks provide jobs, education, and serve as community centers.
I was eager to support GFN’s mission by joining the Board in 2015. Bringing a background in business and technology, I felt I could make a meaningful contribution to GFN’s work around the world.
How has GFN evolved since you’ve joined?
GFN has transformed and strengthened under the leadership of GFN’s CEO, Lisa Moon, and her incredible team. Since I joined the Board, the Network expanded, the scope of partnerships and support became more robust, and flagship programs such as the Food Bank Leadership Institute attracted record participation and opportunities for knowledge sharing and leadership development. And the Network grew from supporting 6.8 million people through food banks in 32 countries in 2015 to reaching 39 million people in 54 countries in 2021.
Tell us about GFN’s new strategic plan.
GFN is continuing to evolve, and this work progresses amidst global uncertainties. In our strategic plan running 2023-2026, GFN has affirmed the North Star goal of improving food access for 50 million people facing hunger by 2030 while transforming food systems.
Notable areas of emphasis in this strategic plan include:
Strengthening food bank resilience as communities face crises both today and in the future.
Advancing food quality across the Network, including providing safe, nutritious, culturally appropriate, and diverse foods to those facing hunger.
Engaging in the broader food systems and development conversations to address the root causes of hunger and poverty while promoting sustainability.
As Board Chair, I am focusing my tenure on supporting these areas of emphasis through strengthening Board engagement, deepening corporate partnerships, and advancing GFN’s thought leadership. I am excited about GFN’s commitment to collaborate globally with partners to address food security, food access, and climate change.
What has been your favorite experience as a Board member?
The Board travels annually to one of the Network countries to gain insights from local food banks and their partners. These trips keep us closely connected to the mission and create lasting memories.
As part of the food bank tour, we visited Cartoneros y Sus Chicos, an after-school community service organization that receives food and supplies from the food bank. The agency supports children of cartoneros who earn income by collecting items for recycling at a recycling cooperative. While the parents are working, Cartoneros y Sus Chicos provides children ages 6 through 18 with academic support, cultural and sports programs, and food assistance.
October 11, 2022, Buenos Aires, Argentina: GFN Board members Carol Criner (far right) and Kumiko Watanabe (center) greet elementary school students in a classroom at Cartoneros y Sus Chicos. (Photo: Red Bancos de Alimentos Argentina)
The day we visited, the center was hosting a celebration for two students who were recently accepted to university, a huge accomplishment made especially significant given the students’ economic statuses. Moments like this are what I would tell the world about food banking—it was deeply moving to celebrate with Cartoneros y Sus Chicos and Banco de Alimentos de Buenos Aires and see firsthand the impact that food banks have on the community. Food banks do much more than offer emergency food assistance; they ultimately strengthen communities for generations to come.