So far, one of the high lights of my time at the Foodbank is my interview with Matt Habash, the CEO of the Foodbank. The title of CEO can be elusive and give the impression of removal from the trenches, making decisions with little knowledge on what the daily activities are. I am proud to say that Matt is not one such CEO. He was there when the Foodbank began over 30 years ago packing emergency boxes, working with clients hands on, and since he has overseen all of the moves and changes the Foodbank has undergone.
As we sat down to talk, I expected to get maybe a half hour. After all, I am a very temporary addition to the staff and I had to go through his assistant to make an appointment for the meeting. I was told by Kerry, my supervisor, that you really only need to ask a couple of question and Matt will fill his answers to the brim with information. The conversation flowed as he went from how he started, to his political involvement, conversations with conservatives in the Cleveland grocery store industry, and his timeshare of a sustainable forest in Nova Scotia.
To my surprise we shared a common belief system and ideology. Our outlooks on the world were very symmetrical and complimentary and I was not expecting it. Matt would change topic in a quick but related fashion at the whim of where his mind took him. I got the impression that talking about his life’s work at the Foodbank was often requested of him but as soon as he got a couple minutes into the story, it merely served as a baseboard for conversations on any topic to crop up. One thing he said that I would keep in mind is that urban farms and community gardens are completely different enterprises with different purposes and outcomes. We often use these terms interchangeably for the only way they are alike; they produce some quantity of food outside of the usual Confinement operations and monoculture farms of the agri-food industry. Community gardens serve more of a purpose in forming community engagement and rubbing shoulders with your neighbors. It breeds accountability and ownership for the place you live as well as providing an educational and nutritional component. Urban farms are usually businesses or operate to produce for some end whether charitable or for commodity sales. This is not a take away that summarizes the entire conversation at all but it is interesting and it changed the way I used to see gardening on all of its different scales.
An hour and a half passed and he said, “Did I not get to any of your questions?” As he looked at my sheet of paper with printed lines of themes or topics I wanted to cover.
“No you answered everything and more.” I thanked him for spending so much time with me and came away from that with even more trust and faith in the mission and operations of the Foodbank.