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Women in Business 2021: Christine O’Rourke, Foodshare/Connecticut Food Bank

  Christine O’Rourke Employer: Foodshare/Connecticut Food Bank Title: Chief Network & Program Officer See all Women in Business 2021 honorees
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Christine O’Rourke is the chief network and program officer at Foodshare/Connecticut Food Bank, a statewide organization recently formed by the two Feeding America food banks in Connecticut. In this role, she provides support and assistance to a network of over 700 partner programs. O’Rourke started her career at Foodshare over 30 years ago and has served in a variety of roles, most recently as chief operating officer. During her tenure at Foodshare, the organization grew from five to over 50 employees and in 2020 provided over 19 million meals in the Greater Hartford community, an increase of 73% over the previous year.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far?

Helping to guide the growth and strategic direction of Foodshare over the last 30 years is something I am very proud of. Our organization helps thousands of food insecure people every year, so I know my work has had an important impact on people’s lives.

What’s the next big goal you want to accomplish professionally?

In my new role, I am leading a team that will have the opportunity to improve how food insecure people across Connecticut access the food they need. We will share and encourage best practices and form new partnerships, with the goal of making the process less fragmented and more customer focused.

What’s one of the biggest professional challenges you’ve overcome?

This last year has been a big challenge. The food bank’s work is essential to the community, so we couldn’t close down while we figured things out. Instead, we had to respond to an unprecedented demand for food while making sure our 50 employees and thousands of volunteers remained safe.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic forced you to adapt as a leader?

It became even more important to refocus on leadership fundamentals, especially communication, compassion and customer service. The pandemic also reinforced how important it is to develop and maintain solid relationships with other community organizations before a disaster strikes. Without these relationships in place, we would not have been able to respond as effectively.

Who has been your most important mentor and why?

Gloria McAdam, longtime CEO of Foodshare. Gloria ran a nonprofit business, but never had a “charity” mindset. She taught me early on that to run any business well, you have to attract talented people, give them the tools they need, set high expectations and have a clear mission that drives what you do every day.

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