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Meet Elizabeth Romano from Food Bank for New York City

Elizabeth Romano is the Sr. Director of Operations and Food Procurement at Food Bank for New York City. Elizabeth is the highest-ranking female in the food bank’s Bronx warehouse and has been with the organization for more than 20 years.

In this episode of RKD Group: Chat, Elizabeth shares her passion for Food Bank for New York City’s mission and her personal connection to food insecurity.



Show chapters

  • 1:04 Her journey into nonprofit fundraising
  • 2:53 Connection to Food Bank for New York City’s mission
  • 4:22 Transformational events that impacted her career
  • 8:32 The impact technology has had on her day to day
  • 9:47 How she approaches leadership in a male-dominated space
  • 10:26 Advice for female leaders
  • 12:44 Advice for nonprofit professionals

Meet our guest

Elizabeth Romano- 1200x627.v5



Kate McKinley

Welcome back to Group: Chat. I'm your host, Kate McKinley. Group: Chat is a podcast by RKD Group, and it's dedicated to sharing the stories of the people in purpose-driven roles, who have spent their careers working at nonprofit organizations.

Today's guest is Elizabeth Romano, Sr. Director of Operations and Procurement at Food Bank for New York City. Elizabeth's story is a special one for me to get to tell for a couple of reasons.

First, as the highest-ranking female leader in their Bronx's warehouse, Elizabeth's experience as a leader in a very male-dominated area is such a powerful way to celebrate Women's History Month.

Second, because her leadership role at Food Bank for New York City's warehouse gives us insight into a different, but equally important, side of fundraising space.

And finally, because as you'll hear Elizabeth share in our interview, her calling to serve at Food Bank for New York City is very personal.

So, let's hear from Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Romano

So, the way I landed at Food Bank for New York City is a little, it might be a little different than it was in a career that I chose. I didn't know ...

I was a single mom ... I was a teen mom.

Once I had my daughter―she was about two years old―and I was like, okay, time for me to go get a job. And I had a friend that was working at a temp agency at the time. I came upon a job, and it was … at the time, the name of Food Bank of New York City was Food for Survival. And I remember coming into this market where we're located and being lost for about a half hour to find the company.

And I came in. I was filling in for someone as a temporary position, and that was July of the year 2000. September of the year 2000, the person came back, but then I was offered a position upstairs in what was called the order processing department. And that's when things started to change for me. You know, a lot of things started making sense. I love chatting with our members every day. At that time, we used to take phone orders and do everything over the phones. There was a lot of communication with them.

And I just fell in love with it. And it, it took me a little bit to understand, you know, to just get to the thing because at the beginning, to me, it was just like, I need to get a job because I need to get some money, you know, for my little girl and myself.

And then, little by little, I just, I fell in love with it.


Like many people I've spoken to, Elizabeth fell into nonprofit work a little bit by accident. And as you heard her share, she started in a temp position because she needed a job.

And she stayed because she fell in love with the members that she got to connect with. But also because Food Bank for New York City's mission was so close to her heart.


Growing up, I grew up in a food-insecure home.

And at the time, again, I made a lot of connections while working here. They're just connecting pieces. So, my life growing up, I did go ... I'm the oldest of five siblings, so I would have more responsibilities than the younger ones. I would help out with my mom a lot. And I would go, at the beginning of the month, I would go to a food pantry.

And where I thought, you know, I've known these ladies for a long time, so it's, like, okay. After I was just going, they would give me advice. I would come home. And I would see them once a month.

So, growing up in a food-insecure home, and then I had my daughter. My family moved away.

My daughter lost her father. So here I am in New York City, single mother. Again, I'm working here, and there were those nights where it's just, like, enough for my daughter to eat, you know? And she would ask, like, mom, where is it?

And I'm like, it's okay, I had a late lunch. So, just growing up in it and still struggling with it as an adult, it's really where it connects me, to do the work that we do.

And I absolutely love what I do on a day-to-day basis. I really do.


Elizabeth has worked at Food Bank for New York City now for more than two decades. In her tenure, she's experienced her fair share of challenges as the Food Bank has pivoted to serve their community throughout some major disasters and emergencies.


I definitely had a different feeling, well, for September 11th.

We couldn't get trucks into the city and things of that nature. I had to work with, like, local precincts to see what we can do. What size truck can we get? Can we get a van close enough?

And even hearing, like … I remember doing work with a specific program that we can get it over to them in a truck, and they could send vans over. So the, to the food pantries that we’re assisting, and just hearing them, like, their joy when this lady said, “Hey, food bank is gonna be able to get us a truck,” and just the people in the background, like, just happy and, you know, just coming together to uplift or sitting in such a difficult time. Like, that to me was definitely, it was very early on, like, one of the things that really stuck with me.

And then let me try to see.

I think when Sandy came around. That was also another difficult one, but it stuck with me in the way we came together, just the city in itself. And then it happened again during the pandemic. I think it's the, these, we can say, like, either a natural disaster or these emergencies that occur, that we're, you know, we haven't planned for anything like that. It happens in just the unity.

Everyone coming together, and us doing this amazing work.


So here is where I wanted to pivot a little bit and dig into Elizabeth's perspective as someone whose day-to-day role ensures that people have access to food and other essential items whenever and wherever they need it.


I have a great team that I work along with, but we currently oversee warehouse operations, transportation, our mobile pantry program, full sourcing procurement and logistics.

So it's you know, day to day. There's some days that are, depending on the amount of meetings and things of that nature, but just working with the team, making sure we work through any hurdles that we might have. But they're all, like you said, they're all different. They all bring different things. But, again, it's an amazing team, and I don't, I, I can't see myself, like, doing this work without them. They're, they're great. And it's busy.

It is busy.

It is busy, to say the least.

But it's, you know, in the morning, checking in, any reports that I have, like, daily reports that I look at, meeting with the team, making sure that we're all on the same page if there's anything that comes up, and still working on those things that we're to focus on for the future.


As you can imagine, overseeing the logistics for any food bank, but especially one of Food Bank for New York City's size, brings its challenges. And Elizabeth tackles those head on with the support of her team members.


So, yeah, it can go anywhere from one of our trucks going down and the team having to figure out how we're gonna get the deliveries out to where we are also picking up from, like, our local produce market that's, like, our neighbor.

They might have an excessive amount of pickups. We only have a certain amount of trucks, and just making sure, how do we handle this? Which is the best way to go? Keeping communication open just to get things I didn't get keeps things moving.

I rely a lot on my daily reports. I'm looking at reports on a daily basis, and speaking to the team, making sure everyone on all levels is okay because at times, you know, people, as much as we're here doing this work, arts team members are also living life, right? And things happen. So, just making sure that they're okay, that they're in a safe place to work, that they feel okay, any miscommunications are all sorted out.


You've heard Elizabeth mention how heavily she relies on technology in reporting to effectively do her job. And so, I wanted to explore that a little bit more. So I asked Elizabeth how she's seen the evolution of technology impact the number of people that they can serve throughout her career.


So, in having certain, like, again, certain tools, reports, like, just data―whether it's, we're getting information from Feeding America or New York State, New York City―and just having it and seeing where we're needed, right? We have what we call, like, food deserts. So it's like, okay, we have a high population, but there's hardly nothing around here. How can we get it there? So, just having this technology of telling us, like, hey, hope is needed here. And for us, whether it's a mobile entry or public distribution, showing up in these neighborhoods.

So, our impact is widespread throughout the city of New York, Pick n Pay, yeah. Because now we're going into places where, you know, the people that lived there would have to travel out for quite a while to get to their closest food pantry.

So, meeting them where they need to be is has been great.


I mentioned this at the beginning of the episode, but Elizabeth and I recorded this in March, which is Women's History Month. As the highest-ranking female leader in Food Bank for New York City's warehouse, I wanted to get her perspective on navigating the leadership position in a male-dominated area.


I think because I've been in operations for a little bit, I've learned ... the communication, like, learning behaviors, how to communicate with the males that I have because it's, it is ... the majority of my team is, are males. Mm-hmm. I'm just making sure that I understand if they're trying to communicate, making sure that I understand what they're saying. So, communication is, again, it's key for me to be sure that I am successful with this team.

I would say, for me, I started, you know, again ... so, it’s been a little bit, but keep going. You know? Your ideas. Keep sharing them. Keep speaking up.

You're always gonna find, I always, I have, like, a team, and it's a very, like, specific. Right? Like, well, I'll go, like, maybe my idea, to me, it makes sense. So I'm like, let me say it out loud to someone else before I say it to someone else.

Make sure you have someone we can lean on. It's really, it's, it's hard to do things and think about things just on your own. So, I do have, I have that circle, right, that I can, that gives me the support for me to be able to do that. I think it's probably really important to have a support system for yourself.


I loved that Elizabeth shared how important it was for female leaders to have a support system they can turn to. But I also know for many of us, myself included, that can be hard to find at first. And so, I asked her how she was able to find hers.


It's funny, since I started here as temp, the person that trained me here, she's still here.

And I think that was, like, one of my first … yeah.

And, yeah. And, you know, she'll, she'll lead me. Like, she'll let me know, like, that, that's crazy, but it could work. Let's, like, let's give it a try. Right? But within, like, the different departments that I worked with, work within and operations, there have been challenges. But again, keep pushing forward.

Keep, you know, presenting your ideas. If no one is … write them down, it'll come up. It'll, it's gonna come up, but you're gonna be able to use it, believe in yourself.

And just building the connections as they come. I think it's really important to have that support system, someone to lean on, someone to support you.


Elizabeth's story was so incredible, and I am so honored that she shared it with all of us. And as we closed out our conversation, I asked Elizabeth if she had any final words of wisdom for others in the nonprofit space. And she left us with one piece of advice and also one very important reminder as we wrap up Women's History Month about Food Bank for New York City's Woman to Woman campaign.


It runs from March first to May first.

I think it's super important to help with these products. Again, I don't believe that a woman should choose between food or a personal hygiene product.

And for anyone out there looking to come into food banking or any nonprofit, remember the mission of where you're at; remember the end, the end user.

Yes. Makes it so much easier. And it's fulfilling.

It's, like, this feeling, like, I can have, like, the most stressful day ever. Right? But just knowing What we did, that mission, that, that moment, that, you know, that single parent could receive something or child.

It's, it's filling. Like, you feel amazing.


Group thinkers is a production of RKD Group. For more information, including how you can partner with RKD to accelerate growth for your fundraising and nonprofit marketing needs, Visit

RKD Group

RKD Group is North America's leading fundraising and marketing services provider to hundreds of nonprofit organizations, including hospitals, social service, disease research, animal welfare, rescue missions, and faith-based charities. RKD Group’s omnichannel approach leverages technology, advanced data science and award-winning strategic and creative leadership to accelerate net revenue growth, build long-term donor relationships and drive online and offline engagements and donations. With a growing team of professionals, RKD Group creates breakthroughs never thought possible.



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