(Raleigh, N.C.) After over 27 years as a trailblazer in hunger relief and food system change, Jill Staton Bullard is leaving the organization she co-founded in 1989. Bullard, Co-founder and Emeritus CEO of Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, announced in a June 16th all-staff meeting that it was time to retire from day to day work at IFFS, to shift her focus from “...the wonderful Food Shuttle family to my original family—my 4 children, 3 grandchildren and my large rambunctious extended family. This also gives me the opportunity to consult with local, state, national and international groups dedicated to best practices in agricultural sustainability, empowering people with leadership training and education about care of all creation. I am truly excited about this next stage of my life." She plans to remain active in food system work. In early 2015, Bullard transitioned into a role focused on community development, long-range system change, advocacy, and strategic fund development. Simultaneously, the IFFS board hired Executive Director Dave Koch to assume responsibility for daily operations including staff management, programs and service delivery, financial management, and development activities.
This strategic move allowed Bullard to focus on local food system change and accelerate the dynamic community conversations about ending hunger. During this time, Bullard has had an active role in moving forward several innovative collaborations including a multi-year, million dollar initiative focusing on wraparound services for foster youth aging out of foster care; the Crosby Cares Collaborative committed to providing comprehensive services to families in SE Raleigh; and Bull City Cool Food Hub, a collaborative of food-based organizations bringing food access, garden education, and a market for small farmers to a low-income Durham community. She was also instrumental in obtaining Inter-Faith Food Shuttle's first million dollar gift.
“Jill’s deep understanding of food system change, and her passionate connection to the community, can’t be replaced,” said Dave Koch. “We hope to call on Jill for her wisdom and experience for years to come.”
“The Food Shuttle is effective only because of the support of food donors, volunteer- based soup kitchen and outreach agencies, and a host of public and private supporters and I want to thank them for the hard work they have committed to us over the years,” said Bullard. “I am planning that my last days at the Food Shuttle will be just like my first days—on a truck distributing food, talking to people.”
Bullard will continue to share her passion and vision in Food Shuttle signature events including the BackPack Buddies MediaThon, an annual food and fund drive for IFFS’ child hunger programs, airing on July 13th on WRAL-TV and MIX 101.5 WRAL-FM—now in its 10th year. Bullard will continue to be an active voice in the media and at the policy level, guiding strategic conversations on food system change.
On October 3rd, Bullard will be inducted into the Raleigh Hall of Fame, something her supporters say is long overdue.
“Jill’s leadership reveals and leverages the gifts and energies of other leaders, “ said Ret. Rev. Anne E. Hodges Copple, Bishop Diocesan, ProTempore in the Episcopal Church. “Jill doesn’t just do it all—she empowers others. She is a catalyst for the best that is within us as a city and a region.”
An ordained Episcopal minister, Bullard was influenced to join the ministry by her good friend and fellow food system advocate, Chef Arthur Gordon of Irregardless Café, who said: “I told her about Rabbi Hillel, who said that each day we have to ask ourselves three questions. If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when? These questions resonated within her and to this day we gratefully witness the benefits of Jill’s actions in our community.”
Bullard’s Influence Spanning 27 years
As co-founder and CEO of Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, Jill Staton Bullard has overseen the growth of Inter-Faith Food Shuttle from the first food donation of 11 breakfast sandwiches in 1989 until today’s level of over 6 million pounds per year. During that time, she raised the standard of quality for recovered food, with an emphasis on fresh local produce and high nutritional value. She developed the safe food handling guidelines in coordination with the local health department, enlisted the first donors, built an extensive network of food donors and volunteer drivers, and designed the original routing systems. In 1992, Bullard was a driving force behind the passage of North Carolina’s Good Samaritan law, which allows businesses to donate unsellable food items without fear of legal action. A Feeding America food bank, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle recovers healthy food –over 40% is fresh produce— that would have gone wasted, and redistributes it to partner agencies.
A nationally recognized expert in food recovery and hunger relief issues, Bullard has expanded the food system conversation to include training and education in urban agriculture, job skills, cooking healthy on a budget, and revenue generation through small tract farming microenterprises.
Using the tagline “We Feed. We Teach. We Grow.” as a guiding principle, Bullard evolved IFFS programs from simply feeding the hungry to teaching skills for self-sufficiency.
While these programs work at the individual level, Bullard has also pushed for work at the systems level by identifying and currently focusing on two specific geographic areas in which to build food security and create food systems change: Southeast Raleigh and Southwest Central Durham.
“There is a wealth of diverse talent and passion in these communities,” says Bullard. “As leaders, it should be our job to remove systemic obstacles and bad policy so that this talent can flourish.”