Rick Gaupo – President of Marion Polk Food Share
“My dad grew up in Astoria, very very poor. He grew up taking odd jobs. One of his jobs was cleaning out railroad cars for the grain. He’d collect the grain and get to keep some. He later got a job as a volunteer firefighter because he’d get a bed and free meals. I remember telling my mom after I got this job with Marion Polk Food Share that I love this job, it’s so fun and challenging but one of my barriers is I’ve never been hungry—I’ve never been close to it. And my mom said, ‘What do you mean you’re not close to it? Your dad grew up hungry.’ I had the good fortune of not growing up hungry but I’m one generation from that. One moment from that.
I’ve had the good fortune of being in community-based organizations my whole professional life. I wanted to be part of a non profit team that would have an impact. It is criminal that food assistance and hunger is a real issue in our community. One of the impacts [of my job] is literally getting healthy food to those families so they can have it in their bellies, so that they can be everything they can be. Another impact is changing the way the community thinks about people who are hungry. The community I want to live in has no hunger in it and I can help create that perspective, and voice and collective power so that the whole community is affected. Hunger is a community issue, not an individual issue. No one should be hungry. We have enough food in our community that no one needs to be hungry. The issue of hunger is not an issue of food. I want the brightest minds to become whoever they’re going to be and I don’t want hunger to be the reason they didn’t get there.”