Jennie Warren is a busy person. She’s served as the Executive Director of the Omaha Restaurant Association (ORA) since 2000 and has been actively involved with Food Bank for the Heartland for the last ten years.
Jennie is also a Foodies member and is the incoming 2023 Foodies President. The “Foodies” is an organization of volunteers dedicated to the support of the Food Bank through volunteerism, fundraising and the promotion of community awareness. Despite her workload, Jennie doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
“It’s important to me to stay active with the Food Bank because the need continues to get greater and greater. When you come in and volunteer—whether you’re packing BackPack meals or sorting fresh produce—it’s a direct result to the community. You know the food is either going to kids who might not have a meal over the weekend or to people at the shelter who wouldn’t have access to that food without our help.”
Her day job with the Omaha Restaurant Association provides her with even more opportunities to help neighbors struggling with hunger. “We have about six fundraising events throughout the year that benefit hospitality and culinary scholarship programs, as well as hunger relief organizations in the Omaha metro, including Food Bank for the Heartland, Saving Grace and No More Empty Pots” said Jennie.
Jennie is determined to utilize her role to increase community awareness around food insecurity. “One of my proudest accomplishments at ORA is that every year (despite COVID), we’ve been able to increase the amount we give back to organizations taking a stand against hunger. Over the last ten years ORA has donated nearly $60,000 to the Food Bank,” said Jennie.
While the restaurant community has been hit hard over the last two years with the pandemic, staff shortages and now inflation—she’s seen an increase in how they support the community, despite the challenges.
“Our restaurateurs understand the issue of food insecurity. They’ve seen the food that goes to waste, and they want to help. And while most restaurant owners can’t step away to volunteer during the day, they are finding unique ways to give back, such as hosting a chef event and raising money to support neighbors in need.”
Jennie says she’s most proud of the awareness she’s created about the Food Bank’s volunteer center. “I’ve really worked hard to help people understand that when you’re in that warehouse with group of people you know, and the music’s on, it’s just fun. But it’s also so gratifying. You’re packing up meals that are going to help feed people that week. It’s really fulfilling.”
As the incoming president of the Foodies, Jennie hopes to build off that awareness and help grow the Food Bank’s network of volunteers. “I have some exciting ideas to get more people involved—specifically high school students—in our events and volunteer efforts. I think it’s good to introduce them to the Food Bank at a young age,” said Jennie.
“I’ve seen that people are more selective with their time since the pandemic and I want to help change what the event-planning process looks like. I’m really hopeful about what this group can achieve together next year.”