Meet Martha Elder, our executive Director!
Our Grassroots Beginnings
And The Power of Starting Where You Are
Over the last two weeks, we have featured stories about the women that created Second Chance Foods, Alison Jolicoeur and Jean Ramusch McGee, to celebrate our grassroots beginnings. This week we’ll complete the series with a spotlight on Martha Elder, our co-founder and current Executive Director!
"I think the story of Second Chance Foods is, 'Just start where you are' We were simply three moms who became aware of an issue and decided to do something about it. People get stuck and don't realize that you incrementally grow. If you can make one quart of soup - it's okay to start there" - Martha Elder, Executive Director
Many of you know Martha because she has been leading Second Chance Foods since August 2016 and has been involved since the beginning. She started her career in the corporate sector before switching to social work, which turned out to be the perfect combination of skills to run a nonprofit! Martha uses her passion for reducing food waste and understanding social justice to ensure Second Chance Foods is always centering around our recipients and working to create a more equitable food system.
I've had the honor and privilege of volunteering at Second Chance foods for the past few months. The organization is amazing. We rescue food that would otherwise be discarded and create nourishing meals for those in need.I can't say enough about this opportunity. Thank you Martha for your spirit and sense of purpose!! -Andrea, Second Chance Foods Volunteer
Always Seeking Solutions
Food waste has always been an essential issue for Martha. When preserving food for her family at home, she remembers wishing she could share this food with others who need it.
Martha met Alison when the two were paired up at an event, and the icebreaker prompted them to discuss a problem they were passionate about – Martha immediately said how much she hates food waste – which led Alison and Jean to ask Martha to join the board and the three set out to make a change in their community.
"When I first heard of Second Chance Foods some years ago, I thought it was too good to be true. Then I met Martha Elder and I realized that with imagination, creativity, and an unwavering dedication to help those in need, amazing things will happen." - Second Chance Foods Supporter
Beginning Farm to Food Pantry
Martha was integral in creating the farm-to-food pantry project, which is now our meals program. She was a CSA member at Glynwood and connected with their farmer, Jarret, about the produce leftover in the field. Martha says the kitchen program revealed itself “There was a lot of nutritious vegetables sitting in the fields and available, but you can only give someone so many carrots.” So Martha arranged for kitchen space, recruited some extra help, and together they gleaned 60 pounds of imperfect carrots and then cooked it into a delicious Carrot Ginger Soup!
"It's a wonderful example of how when people get together and combine their vision the effects are exponential, and it's beyond what I could have imagined or done on my own." - Alison Jolicoeur
Creating Growth with Flexability
In 2017 when Second Chance Foods first started cooking, they only used produce from the farms, so cooking was seasonal and not year-round until 2019. The program began as an innovative way to use the food available before it went bad. At first, it was about the farms, but then they learned how vital prepared meals are to recipients. And from the beginning, it has always been important that our meals not only taste great but that they take some of the burden off people experiencing hunger.
An unexpected perk of the meal program was it introduced cold storage. Before, we
would have to coordinate picking up food and delivering it to food pantries right when the pantries would pass it out. Cold storage for even a few hours allowed us to connect more food to more places and people in need.
Staying Flexible, Creative, and Solving Problems.
Martha sees our growth as incremental and in line with our capacity. But above everything else, it’s been about listening to the needs of our community and creating sustainable strategies to respond. 2020 was pivotal because there was new support and awareness for food waste and hunger – but the pandemic also highlighted the gaps in hunger relief and barriers to people receiving help. Listening to the community’s needs, we distributed food at a free school meal distribution so recipients only had to make one stop. We also piloted our Community Supported Nutrition Boxes, which have grown yearly since and are now at our maximum capacity providing a box of meals and fresh groceries to over 300 people every Wednesday.
Looking forward, Martha wants Second Chance Foods to always meet people where they are and increase the accessibility of nourishing foods. For example, the Bountiful Meals program partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension provided grab-and-go meals in freezers placed at the local Senior Centers. Martha also envisions Second Chance Foods having its own facility to increase the amount of food we can connect with the community. And someday, be a model for more change and help other organizations address the unique needs of their community.
“We’ve seen success in our work because of our ability to stay nimble and pivot to solve problems, thoughtfully. We don’t hear about an issue and say ‘that isn’t possible’ we collaborate, ask questions, and look at new ways to improve access to nourishing food for our community and restore dignity to our neighbors that need assistance.” -Martha
Helping Martha Build a Future for Second Chance Foods
A Collective Impact!
Thank you to everyone who purchased an item off our wish list, donated, signed up to volunteer, shared our story, or even opened our email. If you didn’t get the chance and want to take a small step to help Second Chance Foods stay flexible and create innovative solutions to reduce food waste and nourish our neighbors, we hope you’ll act today!
Purchase an item off our Amazon Wish List to help our growing operations!
Share this post with a friend or on your social media to raise more awareness.
Join a community of like minded people who care about food waste, hunger, and the environment.
Make Change At Home with our guide for reducing food waste in your own kitchen.