I met Dr. Sarah Ramirez in my last year in college. She was a temporary lecturer for Cal Poly and she enjoyed learning about the extracurriculars around the department, so I immediately thought she was cool. Soon, I took one of her classes about Food Waste and we’ve been friends ever since.
She might be the only professor I had in Cal Poly that I see on a semi-regular basis and that’s mainly because she lives really close to my grandma’s house in the Central Valley!
I’ve been keeping tabs on Sarah’s company, Foodlink, an innovative food bank in Tulare county, which is housed in one of the poorest American counties. Sometimes, I’ve helped a few times gleaning kiwis and lecturing about spices. I’ve seen Foodlink grown from a small food bank to a huge facility that has its own kitchen and hosts events to inform people on how to feed the community. Sarah’s drive and mission to feed the world is absolutely contagious.
There are A LOT OF emotional truth bombs in this episode and it is just so inspiring listening to Sarah. She has the ability to make you care about the people she’s feeding.
A big thing you’ll notice about Sarah is that she likes to break stereotypes no matter what. Whether it’s her life as a child, or rising up the ranks in Stanford, or what she’s current;y doing in the food bank industry! Sarah is a truly inspiring figure with a heart of gold.
About Sarah Ramirez
Sarah Ramirez, PhD, MPH, MA, is the executive director for FoodLink for Tulare County. Sarah completed her doctorate and post-doctorate at Stanford University focusing on community health and cardiovascular disease prevention. Prior to joining FoodLink Sarah worked as a lecturer in the Food Science and Nutrition Department at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, an epidemiologist and a health educator in Tulare County.
The daughter of Mexican farm workers, Sarah and her siblings witnessed their parents, family and friends work long hours in the fields and suffer from chronic illnesses often resulting in premature death and chronic suffering. These experiences ignited Sarah’s passion for understanding the conditions for these disparities and motivate her work for creating healthy communities.
One of the greatest injustices, she believes, is that evidence-based tools, resources, and skills that promote health and longevity are not available for low-income, rural, or non-English speaking populations who face chronic structural inequities – poverty, underemployment, and stress – that increase the risk for illness. This commitment to health equity and social change has been a driving force in her work.
*NEW* Sponsor – Bakerpedia
This episode is brought to you by BAKERpedia – your one-stop, resource that answers all your questions on industry trends, ingredient information, food safety and more. It’s shared knowledge, freely available, always. BAKERpedia.com – we do all the thinking so you can focus on your business.
Sponsor – FoodGrads
If you are even just a little bit interested in a career in food & beverage, you should join FoodGrads. It’s an interactive platform where you can hear about different careers, hear from your peers, have a voice and share your story as well as ask specific questions and get feedback from industry experts across the sector.
You can create a profile, add your resume and search for co-op, internships and full time opportunities just for Food Grads. Employers can find you too, they can recruit you for jobs and projects they need help with to give you the relevant industry experience you need.
Join FoodGrads today! Just go to Foodgrads.com
Sponsor – ICON Foods
So let me pose this question to you food developers and R and D colleagues out there in Podcast land. Have you even run into a situation where you have marketing breathing down your neck to accomplish the impossible? I’ll bet. This is where my friends at Icon Foods can play a roll.
Their ReformulateU initiative is in place and ready to help you reformulate with Clean Label Sugar Reduction in mind. Icon’s CEO Thom King was on one of my podcasts a while back and he literally wrote the book on cutting out sugar. His book Guy Gone Keto comes out in late March.
If you are looking to cut down on your added sugars in your formulas and want a reliable supply chain partner in clean label sweeteners and ingredients look no further than Icon Foods. www.iconfoods.com or give them a call at 310-455-9876
Best thing about your job: A mission driven organization. Putting together ateam that believes food can change the world. Food banks are about 30-40 years old. A time where there was an increased amount of poverty
What has been the traditional method for food banks to get funded?: One misconception is that the government thinks foodbanks are completely funded. However, foodbanks still need multiple sources of funding, but still needs sustainable methods of funding. Less than 25%. The Celebrity Champions model works well in cities but won’t work in Tulare County
Sara’s history: I never thought I’d be a food bank director. I started with community health and went from there. I saw a lot of people that became ill. I began to ask many questions about how to feed people and began to become an interdisciplinary learner. I became a director of Foodlink due to supporting it in the past and I found I could use all of the skills I learned to impact more people and make a difference.
How do you take initiative on things?: Sometimes, when you get so obsessed with things, you have to dig deeper. I was frustrated, and sometimes you get so frustrated, you have to do something about it. There is no other option but there is no place I’d rather be.
Problems with food equity: Work with food service directors. Recipe development, buy food in bulk and provide it to schools. There are a lot of barriers to this and it’s a new sector, so we need a solution
My Food Job Rocks: I love breaking barriers and breaking stereotypes in the food bank industry
What type of Food Trends and Technologies are really exciting you right now?: Social enterprise food trends. For example, youth run cafes are developing their own locally sourced recipes. Or creating cafes that develop job security. I thought I was insane with my ideas before I went to this thing and now I don’t feel alone
The biggest challenge the food industry has to face: Food waste. I’ve studied this for several years and it’s been recently put into more important
Who inspired you to get into food? Was it a specific person?: I remember asking my mom to make food from magazine but we couldn’t afford or know the ingredients used to create the dishes
Favotie Kitchen Item: Food Processor (which I didn’t buy until way later)
Favorite Book: Currently Big Hunger
Favorite Food: Sometimes I just like what’s fresh and simple
The hardest challenge about managing a food bank: Put into a box of stereotypes. I’m learning a lot of new skills to face the challenges in Tulare county
What do you recommend people who want to take the non-profit route?: Focus on collaboration. We all try to do a lot with the limited resources that we have
What’s been the most rewarding thing about being in a non-profit?: Be thankful for the experiences that you have any time. People will tell you that their dreams came through because of you
Where can we find you?: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We accept volunteers