After ten years as the Food Bank’s Community Engagement Officer, Joani Mullin officially retired in February of 2023. Her many accomplishments include evolving a special group of Food Bank supporters and leaving a lasting impact on our Celebrity Chef event—which has become one of the most popular nonprofit fundraisers in Omaha.
“The thing I loved most was hearing how much fun people have coming to it. And being part of putting it together and making Celebrity Chef fun for everyone. People love it and want to see it do well. We have very loyal supporters of this event who have attended for 15, 16, 17 years.”
This year’s 22nd annual event featured world-renowned chef, cookbook author, TV personality, and food activist, Marcus Samuelsson. With the support of our generous community, The Food Bank surpassed its original goal of 2.4 million meals. The event raised the equivalent of 2.8 million meals, which will help neighbors across the Heartland who are making unthinkable decisions as they face rising costs of food and everyday essentials.
Celebrity Chefs over the years include the likes of Curtis Stone, Geoffrey Zakarian, and Carla Hall. While talent is a big draw to the event—the generous community and the impact to the Food Bank’s mission—is what Joani believes makes it so special. “It’s still alive 22 years after it started. There are not many events that can last this long and get stronger. And with the pandemic, everything changed. Our event managed to survive, while a lot of others didn’t, and I think it’s because of the loyal support in our community.”
Joani also played a key role in the Foodies—a group of volunteers dedicated to supporting the Food Bank through volunteerism, fundraising and community awareness. Her guidance and mentorship helped the Foodies expand their reach while garnering more support for the Food Bank’s mission. Since the Foodies formed a decade ago, the committed group has raised more than two million meals for neighbors in need across the Food Bank’s 93-county service area.
Between her extensive work with Celebrity Chef and the Foodies, Joani says it’s the people she’s going to miss most. “I’ve made some very good friends. I loved working with everyone in this group. I’ve formed great relationships with the Foodies, and a lot of loyal supporters with Celebrity Chef.”
When Joani was asked if there was anything else she wanted to share, her eyes quickly filled with tears. “It’s been a wonderful ten years. When I started, I didn’t think I would last a month. I hadn’t worked in 20 years. I was such a fish out of water.”
We sure are glad Joani stuck around after her first month! On behalf of the Food Bank team, we’d like to thank Joani for her dedication in the fight against hunger. We wish her all the best on her next well-deserved chapter.