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Melissa Drews 

Program Director of a local non-profit

Why do you want to be on the Outpost Natural Foods Board of Directors?

Over the last 18 months, I've been considering what issues really matter to me, and how I can take a more active role joining with likeminded groups and individuals who have mutual interests and priorities. I'm specifically interested in joining this Board because the Outpost is focused on supporting issues that I greatly care about (food distribution/accessibility, health equity and sustainability of local cooperatives over agribusinesses). I feel that as a Board member, I would be able to provide practical skills that could help make a difference and would enjoy investing my time in various worthwhile projects related to Board responsibilities. Even though I'm currently a social worker and working in a Program Director role, I previously worked as a nutritionist in the Madison area and have been interested in issues related to food since my childhood. Whether my earlier interests had to do with understanding food labels and why specific foods are made available to the public, I have always been interested in the various ways individuals and the broader public benefit from access to healthy foods. At present I am most interested in health disparities across socio-economic groups and how to lessen that gap in urban areas. This is a huge topic, with various ways to address these issues, and I would love to become more involved with a group that cares about seeing this issue ultimately alleviated.

What professional skills do you bring to a Board position of a $50 million business?

In my current employment role, I'm very involved with the oversight of program financials. In addition, I'm very familiar with working collaboratively with others as a team member. In my current job, I see myself as a team member who fulfills specific responsibilities and duties and after delegating, does everything else as needed. To give more examples of other professional skills, I'm very experienced in training and mentoring, and regularly do so for both staff and volunteers. I am also typically the 'face' of my division for my employer, and frequently have created and provided presentations and trainings to community partners and have attended various non-profit fairs and events. I'm very familiar with planning for events and acquiring the various resources needed for them. I'm also experienced in creating programs and contributing to large-scale improvements of programs (after a period of analyzing them), and have been heavily involved in everything from curricula development to program structuring. I'm also very dedicated to quality assurance and collecting data to measure the effectiveness of programs. I also am in a position to work with staff to reflect on their efforts and discuss areas of strengths and possible improvements. I've also had quite a bit of experience partnering with other groups on coalitions and committees.

Please describe how you would contribute to the diversity, equity, and inclusivity of the board.

I am Caucasian and am cis-gendered; I identify as female. Having a background as a social worker, I am very aware of my various advantages and how the privileges I've been given have made my life much easier than it otherwise could have been. Overall, I would say I'm sensitive to these topics, and am mindful of not looking down on anyone with a different viewpoint and set of experiences. Fairness is important to me, as well as giving people the space to share their points of view, since I can always learn something from another person's perspective. From my experiences and current mindset, I think I would best contribute to these three by being mindful in words and actions as a member when collaborating with others, and by considering how to ensure these three for all who shop at Outpost. With diversity, I'm thinking that because each Board member has a unique voice and set of experiences, I could also contribute a point of view with my voice. With equity, I think it's important for others to be fairly heard and have resources evenly allocated and available, whether this involves Board members or co-op owners. With inclusivity, I would want my priorities as a Board member to represent that of co-op owners - already considering that the Outpost should be a place that all feel welcome to shop.

Describe your prior involvement with community organizations and/or cooperatives.

Besides the experiences I've had with partnering with other non-profits at my current job, I've had a long history of volunteering. To give several examples, I've previously volunteered for two years as a weekly ESL teacher with refugees, and assisted Habitat for Humanity with construction work for about 18 months. I was also big sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters for three years. I've had such diverse experiences because I've wanted to do things that felt meaningful or would help build certain skills. As it relates to cooperatives, I have been a member of two different farm cooperatives in Wisconsin for a number of years, though those memberships are not currently active. My membership in these co-ops allowed me to have access to the foods made available at the stores on their premises, and one specifically required me to help with various farm chores on a monthly basis.

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