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Announcing Our First Impact Labs Cohort on Zero Hunger: Addressing Food Insecurity in the U.S.

By Amy Guterman October 24, 2022

Today, we’re introducing our first Impact Labs cohort on zero hunger and their work on U.S Food Insecurity.

Impact Labs convenes community experts, or fellows, across sectors to co-create new technology solutions to support specific issue areas. For example, our first Impact Lab cohort designed Service Match, an open-source app designed for case managers who connect people experiencing homelessness to vital human services. Our latest Impact Lab cohort on climate justice built an open-source tool for climate community-based organizations to access grant funding more seamlessly with the Grants Content Kit

By bringing together the expertise of leaders from across sectors with the power of Salesforce technology and pro bono talent, this Impact Lab will aim to generate shareable insights and create a solution that will contribute to improving access to nutritious food for all with dignity.

Why Food Insecurity in the U.S.? 

We all know that hunger is a complex and growing problem. In 2021, 53 million Americans turned to food banks and community programs for help putting food on the table. Food insecurity threatens to worsen as households continue to face setbacks due to COVID-19, fears of a global recession, and the highest increase in inflation rates and food prices seen in the last 40 years. Supporting households in the wake of the pandemic and amidst rising food prices is essential to ensuring healthy lives for families in the U.S. Getting to zero hunger will require unprecedented collaboration and a multi-pronged approach that gets to the numerous causes.

That’s why, when we put out an open call to our community to generate suggestions on where our technology and resources could be most helpful, we landed on two topics to start; delivering a more dignified food service experience in the U.S., and supporting small farmers in remote areas globally. 

Our first cohort of Community Fellows came together last week to dig into the topic, specifically investigating: 

How might we support food banks and food suppliers in anticipating people’s needs locally to provide nutritious meals with dignity?

Prioritizing a more dignified experience in food service means that every person can both access food, and access the right food to meet their nutritional, medical, religious, or cultural needs. Further, how they collect that food should be on par with today’s norms on shopping for groceries or ordering meals. We have an opportunity in front of us to create psychological safety around this biological imperative.

What Were The Results?

At our first in-person design sprint*, the group challenged each other to bust orthodoxies that hold us back from reducing hunger. They took a critical look at the current experience of a person experiencing food insecurity in the U.S. and identified many opportunities for change. The cohort of Community Fellows posed provocations like: 

  • How might we leverage each other’s innovations to make accessing food more streamlined?
  • How might we inspire funders to work toward long-range impact? 
  • How might we make food freely available to those who want it? 
  • How might we bridge the gap between the private and public sectors?

Notably, the group debated the tension between short-term fixes and long-term systemic change. They discussed ways that technology can improve services for people experiencing food insecurity, as well as the policy changes, investments, and cross-sector partnerships that are necessary to drive meaningful, lasting change. With many incredible ideas on the table, they committed to moving forward with two community-driven approaches to combat hunger: 

Women with a badge standing in front of a whiteboard brainstorming with an audience.

A Hunger Action Plan to activate our Salesforce ecosystem around long-term systemic changes to fight hunger.

  • Community Fellows posed the question: “How might we leverage the full power of the Salesforce ecosystem – employees, philanthropy, product, suppliers, and policy influence – to address food insecurity?”
  • They provided recommendations for Salesforce to accelerate its commitments to addressing food insecurity and will work with employees to shape the company’s action plan moving forward, centering on people with lived experiences.
Man holding up sketch and discussing its content with a group.

A Food Access Kit to provide food banks and food pantries with a set of out-of-the-box modules and relationships to get them started on Salesforce.

  • Community Fellows from Crossroads Community Services, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, and Second Harvest of Silicon Valley presented innovative ways that they are using Salesforce within their own organizations.
  • This spurred an idea on how we can leverage existing technology and learnings from custom solutions to build an easy-to-use module to get other organizations started with Salesforce.   

These ideas are just the beginning. In the next phase, we will continue to work with the community to build out these ideas. 

Interested in co-creating the Hunger Action Plan or Food Access Kit? Email us at [email protected].  

*Shortly after launching Impact Labs, we had to shift to virtual with the quarantine. We are so excited to be back in the room with our fellows.

Meet the Impact Lab Community Fellow Cohort on U.S. Food Insecurity 

Melvin Acosta, VP of Operations and Logistics, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle headshot

Melvin Acosta

VP of Operations and Logistics, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle

Melvin (Mel) hails from Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. He has many years of experience in Military and Supply Chain Operations Management, with an educational background in accounting, operations management, project management and a Lean Six Sigma certification. Mel hopes to help our community and create awareness.

“Some of the challenges we are seeing is increased need of food as we have added the middle class families as part of food insecurity not just the families in the poverty level.”

Melanie Calhoun, Senior Director, Virtual Client Experience, Crossroads Community Services headshot

Melanie Calhoun

Senior Director, Virtual Client Experience, Crossroads Community Services

Melanie Calhoun leads the effort to leverage and expand technology adoption to address food insecurity for Crossroads Community Services, a nonprofit that focuses on strengthening families by building nutrition-stable communities. She brings 15 years of experience spanning program development, community outreach, and creative collaboration to help nonprofits drive transformation. 

“Access to nutritious food is foundational to a healthy, thriving community and society. I am excited to collaborate with others to unleash our imaginations and expertise to develop innovative solutions that expand access to this basic need.”

Melissa Hill, Dees Founding Partner, HandsOn Connect Cloud Solutions headshot

Melissa Hill Dees

Melissa’s vision in my personal V2MOM last year was:  Be a leader in innovation, impact, and inclusion to #domoregood. Doing more good, efficaciously, requires accelerants and challenges to the status quo. With a background ranging from technology through corporate America and into nonprofit work, Melissa made a conscious effort in 2015 to create a way to increase her ability to make an impact on social issues. Salesforce has provided the platform to make that possible.

“My personal goal of #domoregood requires accelerants and challenges to the status quo. I am excited to participate in the Impact Lab to leverage the brilliance of the gathered minds, the passion of the organizations, and the support of Salesforce to create an innovative way to make certain no child is in danger of being hungry.” 

Rachel Machen, Lead Associate, Food Security, Save the Children headshot

Rachel Machen

Lead Associate, Food Security, Save the Children

Rachel Machen has worked in the public service world for over 8 years, pursuing her passion of ensuring children and families have adequate resources and support to promote optimal outcomes. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Master’s in Public Administration from Arkansas State University. Currently, she is the Food Security Lead Associate for Save the Children in Arkansas. Prior to her career with Save the Children, she was with the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education (DCCECE) as a Project/Program Manager and Technical Writer.

“I am hoping to gain a greater understanding of innovative and practical solutions to food security which can be applied at the local level to increase efficiency and access to food across my home state.

Jennifer Thall, Principal Consultant, Heller Consulting

Jennifer Thall

Principal Consultant, Heller Consulting

Jennifer has been working at Heller Consulting for eight years. In that time, she has collaborated with several major food banks, using Salesforce to solve both fundraising and operational challenges. Prior to Heller, Jennifer spent a decade working for a variety of nonprofit and higher education organizations. Jennifer is an enthusiastic problem solver; you can find her digging into business processes to find efficiencies and delivering lasting and impactful results for nonprofits carrying out their missions.

“No one should have to worry about where their next meal will come from, and yet, that’s the stark reality for far too many Americans. I’m excited to work with a diverse group of problem solvers to create real solutions for the food banks working on the front lines of hunger and food insecurity.”  

Elizabeth Whamond, Director of Information Technology, Second Harvest of Silicon Valley headshot

Elizabeth Whamond

Director of Information Technology, Second Harvest of Silicon Valley

Elizabeth has been working for Second Harvest of Silicon Valley for 20 years, with a focus on data, systems, and technology in how we do this work. As one of the largest food banks in the nation, our organization nearly doubled in size during the pandemic and we continue to see unprecedented levels of need as we all learn to live in this “new normal.”

“I am interested in working with peers who are interested in solving hunger locally, and I’m excited to work with the experts at on this problem.”

Emilio Tavarez, Director of Advocacy, Policy, and Research, Hunger Free America headshot

Emilio Tavarez

Director of Advocacy, Policy, and Research, Hunger Free America

Emilio Tavarez is a Dominican immigrant, a social worker, and currently focused on policy advocacy to improve safety net programs such as SNAP, WIC, and school meals. His areas of expertise include policy analysis and development, group facilitation, benefits enrollment, and workforce development. He has developed cultural competence for working with a wide variety of marginalized communities: LGBTQ+ people, immigrant families, senior citizens, unhoused communities, people formerly incarcerated, and individuals facing mental illness, substance abuse, and intimate partner violence. 

“I want to ensure that the technological solutions developed to support food distribution programs also integrate with food benefits such as SNAP and WIC. I hope this Lab will develop solutions that will make it easier for clients accessing food pantries and soup kitchens to easily apply for the benefits for which they are eligible.”

John de la Parra, Director, Food Initiative, The Rockefeller Foundation headshot

John de la Parra

Director, Food Initiative, The Rockefeller Foundation

Dr. John de la Parra is the Director of The Global Food Portfolio at The Rockefeller Foundation. His expertise is in ethnobotany, plant chemistry, and indigenous uses of plants as both food and medicine. He has previously taught and conducted research in these subject areas at Harvard, MIT, Tufts, and Northeastern.

“I am excited to learn more about the challenges others face, and about revolutionary ideas for systems change.”

Juliana Pereira, Child Nutrition Programs Manager, Hunger Free America headshot

Juliana Pereira

Child Nutrition Programs Manager, Hunger Free America

Juliana Pereira is the Child Nutrition Programs Manager at Hunger Free America. She specializes in research, outreach, and building local advocacy capacity among parents around child nutrition programs, including school/summer meals, SNAP, WIC, and P-EBT. She received both a Bachelor’s in Spanish Language & Literature and a Master of Public Administration degree from Binghamton University. She is from Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

“I am excited to meet people who are interested in discussing real answers and strategies to ending food insecurity and poverty.”