Susan King is president and CEO of Feeding Northeast Florida, and she loves volunteering and figuring out solutions to the food insecurity problem in the 12 counties the organization serves. She loves what she does and does not feel like she’s working when she’s dedicated to a cause and helping others.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I’m a CPA by trade and I was working as a CFO for a large international company with about 10,000 employees, and I just woke up one day and asked myself, "What do I really love to do?"
I was always pretty much a compulsive volunteer, and I knew I loved to help out with nonprofits and serve the poor, so I was at a party, and someone asked me if I would consider being on the board of a small organization here at the beach, and I perfectly said, "No, I’d like to be the director one day."
Eight months later he called me and asked if I was serious about what I said and I told him yes.
I had two kids in college and took a 70% pay cut and my husband was crazy and went along with it, so I went from being in charge of 10,000 employees to being the fourth in this little tiny organization, which also operated a food bank.
I ended up growing that organization and have never felt like I’ve worked a day in my life since I made that change.
So, the lesson is to try to figure it out before you are 52 years old, because it really isn’t work if you love what you do.
What led you to get involved with Feeding Northeast Florida?
We’ve only been around for 10 years and when we started it was a brand new and fledgling organization. It feels like 12, but it’s only been 10.
We started it to replace a food bank that had lost a contract with Feeding America, so there was a definite need because we didn’t have a food bank in this community.
It led a group of us getting together and saying, "How could we not?" and "We have to," because how else were we going to help the food insecure in this area.
What are your goals and objectives for the organization moving forward?
We currently cover 12 counties, and we go all the way to the Gulf, so we serve an area the size of New Jersey which covers about 8,300 square miles.
In the areas that we serve, we estimate about 265,000 people who are food insecure, and that means any degree of food insecurity, so it may be that you miss a few meals in a month or maybe you only eat breakfast or lunch at school and a child doesn’t have a dinner to come home to. It’s all kinds of degrees.
Food-banking is not just about food, but now it’s about how do we shorten the lines and even eliminate the lines of those who are battling food insecurity.
It’s really become about advocacy and looking at the bigger picture. It’s about how to cook healthier foods and how to make healthier choices so that you don’t have to spend your money on medications and instead you can put your resources toward a roof, electric bills and food.
We know we can’t solve it with just pounds of food, but we’ve got to create that awareness. People sometimes feel like they don’t have a voice, especially in the poorer communities, but that’s why we’re there to help listen to what they really want.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I think if you find something that you’re really passionate about and something that’s important to you, then success and failure is not really a thing because you’re driven to change something and improve something or be something.
If you’re true, transparent and genuine, the chances are that’s going to attract others to want to help out and be a part of the cause as well.
What are some of the aspects you have learned since getting involved with the cause?
Everybody stumbles, and what would success be if we didn’t have failure.
It’s just the highs and lows of life and they are going to be there, but if you keep your eye on your goal, whatever that is whether it’s saving the world, eliminating hunger, winning THE PLAYERS or being the best parent possible.
I don’t have a great platform, but I have a great story.
Talking and sharing stories is one of the best ways to come up with the solutions to the problems that we’re encountering, no matter what you may be faced with.