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Mallory heads effort to keep thousands fed

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Second Harvest Food Bank CEO Mike Mallory shows off an oversized check presented to the non-profit by comedian and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham when his tour made a stop in Stockton. Mallory has been ...


POSTED November 22, 2012 12:21 a.m.

“Hunger never takes a holiday.”

It’s a phrase that you’ll hear Mike Mallory periodically interject into conversations when the topic turns to the amount of support that his non-profit is getting during the holiday months.

It’s not that the CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank – the Manteca-based operation that distributes food to food closets and outreach efforts serving the Northern San Joaquin Valley – is being snarky. He’s not trying to sound like the efforts of those that make donations during Thanksgiving in Christmas are meaningless.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

But one thing that people don’t realize, Mallory said, is the fact that when they drop off their turkey or their stuffing or their cranberry sauce and walk away feeling like they did something to help a family in need, they only helped put food on the table for a single meal.

One sitting. One supper. One night that parents can rest easy knowing that their kids aren’t going to go to bed hungry that night.

Then the panic of trying to figure out where you’re going to go for help starts to set-in.

Mallory knows. He experienced it growing up.

“We got hit with food insecurity pretty hard,” Mallory said of his family growing up. “It’s something that really resonated, and now it’s come full-circle. Knowing what that feels like – that it’s not a game – and living out of your car and the whole nine yards.

“But look at where I’m at now. I wish people could see it in my head right now. It’s such an amazing feeling.”

The Bulletin sat down with Mallory – a native of St. Petersburg, FL – for a Q&A session about what issues are plaguing families in Manteca and what is going on with him:

What it is that you enjoy about being involved with non-profit work?

“For 27 years I was an executive in higher education and for 13 years I was on this board. And I needed something. I always thought that my calling was education, but anybody can get an education – if I could do it then anybody can. I was finally semi-retired and this position opened up and I thought to myself, ‘I’ll do this for a while.’ That was five years ago. And it’s all about helping those that need helping. That’s why I’m here, and that’s why I come into work every day.”

Was it different when you assumed this post? What about it seemed foreign?

“I always knew that I had a passion for things like this, and I thought that it was such a neat thing when I first got here. I instantly had all of these ideas that nobody in the entire world had ever thought of before (laughs). This is about taking away the food insecurity that exists out there, and it’s something that isn’t going away instantly – that was different.”

There’s a private jet, gassed up and sitting on the tarmac, waiting to take you anywhere in the world you want to go for a week. Where is that and why?

“Italy. Rome. I’d like to take my wife and go see everything. Just to be in it – savor it. See the different buildings and architecture that you can only see there. The romance. I think it would be a very romantic place to go and visit with my wife.”

The annual turkey drive just wrapped up, and as usual the community came through in droves. What happens when the holidays are over?

“It’s very obvious that there’s a drop, both in food and monetary donations. The trick is finding a way to keep that momentum going throughout the year. We’ve got some great sponsors and partners that are working with us to offer sustaining programs that we feel are helping to make people aware of the issues that are out there. We operate in seven counties and yet there are still people out there that still have no clue who we are and what we do. We have to keep awareness up for people 365 days a year. That’s so important. Hunger never takes a holiday. We serve 3,800 kids twice-a-month and 2,000 seniors twice-a-month, and in order to keep those programs up that support has to be there.”

If you could see any singer – living or not – perform a concert today, who would it be?

“Elvis. Late 1960s to early 1970s Elvis because that’s what I remember as a kid. I’m a big Elvis guy. But a current artist – Carrie Underwood. I think she’s the real deal. I missed her the last time around because I had to go to a Feeding America conference. I’m going this time.”

How have healthy choices become a part of the distribution of food and groceries to families?

“It’s important that we, as a society, correct things that we see as wrong. And we know now that overeating and eating the wrong foods leads to diabetes and other health problems and we need t be aware of that. We can’t change the world, but we can make a difference. One of the things that we’ve done is made sure that 50 percent of what the seniors are taking home is fresh produce. But we have to education them as well – get people dialed in to a different mindset. Filling your stomach is one thing, but you have to fill it with the right stuff.”

Describe the perfect Sunday.

“I’d want it to be with my wife (City of Manteca Finance Director Suzanne Mallory). We’d do a little bit of wine tasting in Lodi and maybe go to a show. Then maybe go out and play a little bit of golf with my brother. But I’d end it by spending time with my wife – that would make the perfect day.”

Does community support make a huge difference in the overall operation of Second Harvest’s operation?

“I’ve never been involved in a community with as many great people as this one. Whether its individuals or businesses or the city – everybody is just overflowing with generosity. I don’t know how they support all of these non-profits. We have such a passionate board, and I love having them dedicated to this cause. I’m here seven-days-a-week, and I don’t mind because I’m very blessed to have this community. People with the least end up giving the most, and it’s amazing to see.”

Second Harvest is affiliated with Feeding America – a well-known and well-respected non-profit with celebrity endorsement. How does their support and backing help?

“They associate their name with the 200 largest food banks in the nation, and it comprises somewhat of a network. And that kind of support is critical. They come out and audit you and make sure that you meet their requirements. We’re one of 40 in California that earned those marks, and it really makes a difference.”

Which is your favorite James Bond actor?

“Sean Connery. I remember him in Goldfinger – seeing that one in the theater. He just seems like the perfect guy to be James Bond.

Where would you like to see the food bank in five years?

“I’d love to not see as much food insecurity, and not as many people in need. But realistically I’d like to see us have the infrastructure to handle what we do have now. Do something like add a 5,000-square-foot facility in the back – right now when it comes to pallets and trucks we have to do everything in the parking lot because we don’t have an adequate ramp. I’d like to see us get something with a loading dock and a ramp that would make it easier to handle the day-to-day. Also an additional cooling space so that we can store more produce. That would be perfect.”

What do you like most about your job?

“Doing something that touches people’s lives. It’s about stepping up to the challenge. My head is constantly going 100 miles an hour – people look at me like ‘What is going on in his mind today?’ But it’s always engaging in the process. It’s about doing more and not missing anything. I think that laughter is important in the workplace because if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing then you shouldn’t be doing it.”

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