Mother and Daughter use shared value to deliver Food Bank’s Mission

40 Faces of 40 Years Jenny DeVries and Amber DeVries

It’s not every day a mother and daughter work for the same organization, let alone a nonprofit. But when Jenny’s daughter, Amber was looking for her first job, she couldn’t think of a better place than the Food Bank.

“We’ve all had bad jobs, and as a parent, you don’t want your kid to have to deal with that if it can be avoided. I couldn’t imagine a better place for her professional journey to start.”

Both Amber and Jenny have worked various positions at the Food Bank prior to their current roles. Jenny started nearly six years ago on the Iowa SNAP Outreach hotline, then transitioned to Mobile Pantry Coordinator and is now a Community Service Representative (CSR). No matter her role, Jenny’s confident she’s in the right place.  “I realized a while ago that I was called to serve. I like making people happy. It fills my bucket, my soul, and my heart. Getting food to people that need it is so fulfilling.”

As a CSR, getting food to the people that need it most—is exactly what Jenny does. The Food Bank’s CSR model was structured in 2021 to strengthen relationships with valued partners, provide more equitable food distribution across our two-state area and address local communities’ need surrounding food insecurity. Jenny serves as the single point of contact for pantry partners in eastern Nebraska including Washington, Douglas, Sarpy, and Cass County, ensuring they have everything they need to serve their communities more effectively.

After working three part-time jobs, Amber—now the Clean Room Lead—believes she’s also found her niche. “The vibe is great here. I love the variety of work and the stability it provides. I also love being part of the Clean Room. Meat is expensive these days and it goes bad quick, so if we can help people get that—and allow them to take care of other stuff—it’s really rewarding. I go home knowing I did good work.”

The Food Bank’s USDA-certified Clean Room, named for its stringent adherence to food-processing safety standards, was piloted in 2021 to help offset the increase in demand caused by the pandemic—and accept large donations from manufacturers that have a presence in our 93-county service area. One of only six nationally, our Clean Room allows the Food Bank to properly handle bulk quantities of food—specifically animal based protein, and package it into family-friendly portions for neighbors in need.

Amber says she’s most proud of how the Clean Room has evolved. “We’ve learned how to streamline the process. We went from processing 300-500 pounds of protein per day to now anywhere between 1,000 and 2,000 pounds a day. Sometimes we can get up to 3,000 pounds a day depending on the product. It’s great to see.”

As for working together to fulfill the Food Bank’s mission, Amber says it’s helped her understand the Food Bank even more. “Learning about her role has given me a better understanding of how we work with our agencies.”. Currently, the Food Bank works with 589 network partners which includes schools, churches, emergency shelters and other non-profits. “She sees the product were working on in the Clean Room and I know she’s going to do her best to distribute it to those that need it most,” says Amber.

While this mother/daughter duo work in completely different departments, they agree it’s the boundaries they set up front that allow them to thrive separately and together for the same organization.

“When Amber started, people would try to talk to her through me. I made it clear I was not her mother at work and if someone needed something, they should go directly to her. Helping staff see her as their colleague and not as my daughter has bettered our relationship,” says Jenny.

Amber agrees it’s the mutual respect that makes their relationship work. “I soon as I got accepted into my first position here, we sat down and discussed that home life was home life, and work life was work life. While we do our best to keep things separate, it is really comforting to have her here.”

Jenny says seeing Amber thrive has been the most rewarding part of working with her daughter. “Now the only times people talk to me about Amber is to pay her compliments. As a parent, it’s always nice to hear good things about your kids. It has been a joy to see how much she’s grown as a person from when she first started to where she is now. I’m so glad it all worked out the way it did.”