Bob Forney, In Memoriam

September 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

Correction Sept 10, 2010: Judy Carter retired in 2008, not 2004.

Hunger Activist, food bank champion, and founder and President and CEO of The Global Food Banking Network, Bob Forney was laid to rest last Sunday. He was 69 years old. Judy Carter, Executive Director of the Capital Area Food Bank  from 1985 until her retirement in 2008, shares her memories of her friend.

Bob Forney and Judy Carter at Interdenominational Prayer Service at the National Cathedral on the eve of Hunger Awareness Day, 2005.

– by Judy Carter

The Hunger Relief Movement lost a real hero last week with the death of Bob Forney.  I met Bob in 2001 when he became the CEO of Feeding America, then called America’s Second Harvest.  At the time, local food banks were addressing hunger issues in their own communities but as a network, we were dysfunctional.  The food banks competed with each other and with the national organization, instead of working together toward our common mission.

Bob was told that his first order of business was to heal the network.  And he did…first by listening, and then by acting.  He felt that a nationwide movement to make hunger a national priority would win support from the food banks and thereby pull us together.

Bob saw an opportunity in the national outpouring of caring that followed the tragedies of 9/11.  He wanted to develop a day, like Earth Day, that was focused on this one issue – ending hunger.  In December 2001, he asked me to chair National Hunger Awareness Day, and for the next two years I worked in his shadow to make this vision come true.  The more time I spent with him, on Capitol Hill or in meetings with other mission-related organizations, my admiration for him grew.  Bob had an amazing capacity to get things done, no matter how far-fetched or formidable the idea seemed.  Nine years later, Hunger Day has become Hunger Action Month, and it’s going on right now.

By 2003, Bob was talking about taking food banking global.  We were good at what we did, he said, and we had an obligation to share our knowledge.  This vision led to the formation of the Global Foodbanking Network, which he still led at the time of his death.  He traveled extensively to South Africa, Israel, and other corners of the world to help them establish food bank networks.

For the last year of Bob’s tenure at Feeding America, I was the chair of his board of directors and his sounding board.  He was so passionate about our work, he’d call me and rant about an issue or person (including sometimes me) with whom he disagreed.  I was usually able to get him to listen to other points of view, and it was during this time that I felt I was able to give something back to him.  In the end, we really respected each other.

Bob died much too soon, but because of him, the Feeding America Network was primed for the growth and new direction it’s taking now.  And Bob made me a better food banker, able to see the possibilities.   His impact lives on in hunger relief work in America and worldwide.

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