Dave Koch officially joined the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle family in January as IFFS’ first Executive Director. He took the time to chat about his experience so far and introduce himself to the Food Shuttle’s online supporters.
Your background prior to IFFS includes working with seniors, mental health patients, and refugees. It seems like you’ve made a career of helping people.
I think that’s true. All my work has been supporting people who have special needs. I’m highly motivated by that. I feel there is a significant segment of our society that doesn’t have advocates and needs us to advocate for them, and to program effectively to help those people improve their situations. I see that’s right in line with the mission of this organization – to help people not only meet their hunger need, but to break the cycle by teaching skills to become self-sufficient. It’s been a perfect fit.
What makes IFFS stand out from your previous jobs?
The variety of programs – even within programs. For example, the culinary group does so many different things – they do catering, they do the Mobile Tastiness Machine food truck, they teach culinary job skills in the classroom – and the same staff does it all. Everybody has to be super flexible.
Talk about your early impressions of the Food Shuttle.
Overall very, very impressed. Staff are very capable. One thing I was really surprised by, pleasantly so, is the board’s dedication to the mission and their understanding of the organization. I’ve been to several committee meetings, and that’s a consistent trend. I really do believe the leadership team here is very strong. Jill, what an amazing story there! For 25 years to have grown this organization. She has so much knowledge. I’ve been so impressed with the passion of the staff regarding the mission of the organization. I like the compassionate, open culture of the organization. My hope is to support and help put systems in place that can make people’s jobs more efficient.
If you could travel back in time, what advice would you tell yourself on your first day?
Be patient. Change takes time. Absorb as much as you possibly can but don’t let yourself get overloaded. There’s a lot of complexity to this that people don’t realize – funding sources, operations – and it’s very unique. I would also tell the new Dave to really build relationships with volunteers because we’re so volunteer driven.
How would you describe your management style?
Why is our Executive Director Dave Koch smiling? He spent the morning recovering & distributing 2,700 lbs of food! pic.twitter.com/34JkllYxOy
— Food Shuttle (@FoodShuttle) May 7, 2015
I follow a philosophy of “management by wandering around.” I think you have to routinely go into your organization at random and wander around to meet with the staff, talk with volunteers, and just get a feel for the culture. You can get so focused on spreadsheets and financials and really lose touch with what’s going on out in the field. So one by one, I want to spend time with each employee and learn what they do. You know that “Undercover Boss” TV show? I think that’s a great concept. My goal is to spend at least a half of a day each week in the field. So one day I’d be working on our Teaching Farm. One day I’d go out on a truck with a driver to recover and distribute food. One day I’d work in one of our urban gardens. I think if you’re going to lead an organization or if you’re in a management position, you have to understand clearly what your people are going through: their challenges, and their needs. Now we can’t solve everything, but at least if we understand then we can be supportive.
What’s on the horizon for the rest of the year?
Quality. 2015 needs to be a year that we really focus on what we’re currently doing, and improve the quality of our services, our food, and our processes as much as possible. Let’s really focus on what we have – which is a multi-strategy approach to ending hunger – and let’s really make it as good as it can be.
Question or comment for Dave? Send him an email at Dave@FoodShuttle.org
By Lindsay Humbert, IFFS Digital Media Specialist. Contact: Lindsay@FoodShuttle.org