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What this nonprofit exec has learned in 38 years of food security work

Students eating a romaine salad provided by Nutritional Development Services. January 3, 2018 Category: FeaturedMediumPeople
In Philadelphia 325,940 people are affected by food insecurity — one out of every five Philadelphians.

One of the forces pushing back against food insecurity is Nutritional Development Services (NDS), an offshoot of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that provides food assistance to underserved populations.

The person leading that charge within NDS is Executive Director Lizanne Hagedorn.

Lizanne Hagedorn. (Courtesy photo)

Hagedorn has worked with NDS for 38 years of the organization’s 44-year existence, starting as an intern while studying food marketing at St. Joe’s University. She then worked her way up to be an assistant business manager, business manager, head of finance and lastly executive director, a role she took on July 1. (She’s also the mom of Kate Hagedorn, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s director of civic affairs.)

“It is hard to believe that I’ve been there as long as I have because it doesn’t feel like it,” Hagedorn said. “I find joy — but every day is a challenge.”

And challenging it is: NDS provides Philadelphia and surrounding counties with 35,000 meals a day. With federal funding from the Department of Agriculture, NDS is able to provide meals to the public through school, after-school, child care and shelter programs as well as various food cupboards.

From our Partners

In order to have a larger impact, NDS partners with likeminded organizations such as Share Food Program, Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger and Philabundance. Hagedorn said she realizes it’s likely impossible for NDS and its partners to totally eradicate world hunger, but she recognizes this work has the ability to relieve burdens for thousands locally.

The populations that NDS serves the most are single parents, veterans and senior citizens — all groups more likely to live on fixed incomes.

“The seniors probably never would have thought that they would have to think about choosing between buying food, medicine, or paying rent or electricity,” Hagedorn said. “If we can help people alleviate that, we don’t have the big fix, but if we can take that off of them, for a month or two, that really helps.”

Holy Redeemer students enjoying a free meal from NDS. (Courtesy photo)

Because Hagedorn has been working with NDS in different capacities for almost 40 years combating food insecurity, she has been able to witness a shift in public attitude regarding charity.

“I can say that when I first started, especially in the child nutrition programs, no parents wanted to admit that they possibly needed food assistance for their families, thinking that they could get it from other family members,” she said. “But I think times have changed and people realize that maybe they don’t have family members to rely on and there is not that same stigma, and that people truly want to help them and are doing it in a nonjudgmental way.”

Hagedorn said she feels at home at NDS and has thoroughly enjoyed her long relationship with the organization.

“It is an honor and a privilege to have been associated with NDS after all of these years,” Hagedorn said. “I hope that I do well by it as we continue into the future and  that we contribute to the overall good of the people.”

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