Tom Fernandez and Julie Shifman have one important belief in common: good food belongs to people, not landfills. Originally on separate paths, these co-founders found their way to one another and started the journey toward Greater Cincinnati’s first large scale organization dedicated to both food insecurity and food waste: Last Mile Food Rescue.
It all started in 2018 when Tom received coaching from the Chamber’s Leadership Action, Flywheel and Cintrifuse’s NITRO programs to analyze the issue of food insecurity in our community. Tom was shocked to discover how much food was being wasted all around us—good food that could be used to help nourish our own neighbors most at risk for facing food insecurity.
Tom also learned that other cities, like Pittsburgh’s 412 Food Rescue, had already created a solution: large scale food rescue operations. In the summer of 2019 while on a pilgrimage walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, Tom spent his days in contemplation of the belief that food is a basic human right. He returned to the US even more committed to the founding of a large food rescue in Greater Cincinnati.
Meanwhile, as fate would have it, Julie Shifman was intrigued by her sister Margie’s experiences with a food rescue organization in Atlanta, called Second Helpings. Margie found her volunteer food rescue work so rewarding, she joined the board at Second Helpings. Julie was fascinated by the idea of an operation that could move large amounts of good food to those in need by mobilizing community volunteers. Wondering why nothing like this existed in Cincinnati, she contacted Kurt Reiber, CEO of The Freestore Foodbank.
During this conversation, Kurt mentioned that Tom Fernandez, was also passionate about tackling the challenge of food rescue in the community. Kurt introduced Tom and Julie, they met, realized they made a great team, and decided to join forces as co-founders of Last Mile Food Rescue.
Just like any start-up, they’ve learned, pivoted–and learned some more–on their journey to save good food and get it to the region’s food insecure. Today, Tom remains as the Board Chair of Last Mile, and Julie is the Executive Director. With the addition of Eileen Budo as COO and a committed working board of change-makers, Last Mile Food Rescue is on the road to making a critical difference in Cincinnati.