December 9, 2020 4:00 am Published by

Episode 85:

Allison O’Toole joined Second Harvest Heartland in February 2019, since then shes made significant progress toward her goals of providing more healthy foods to more people, rescuing more food from waste, and helping our neighbors weather increasing financial pressures. The organization’s COVID-19 response represents a major mobilization effort to adapt to a changing and growing need for food support in the community.

Allison joined Second Harvest Heartland from the United States of Care, where she served as Senior Director of State Affairs focusing on the mission that every American has affordable health care.

Before her tenure at United States of Care, Allison was CEO of MNsure, joining in 2014 as the Deputy for External Affairs and then promoted to CEO in 2015. During her leadership at MNsure, Allison led an aggressive marketing campaign and strategic overhaul of the MNsure operations, customer service, and outreach programs, resulting in three years of record-breaking enrollment, improved customer service, and increased system stability. She testified twice before Congress, often a national spokesperson on behalf of state-based exchanges across the country.

Before joining MNsure, Allison was a director at a Minneapolis-based public affairs firm where she specialized in issues management for businesses and organizations primarily in Minnesota. Prior to that, she served as state director for U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar. Earlier in her career, she spent nearly a decade as a prosecutor, where she prosecuted some of the most violent criminals in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Allison received her BA in Political Science and Art History from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. She received her JD from Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, MN. She serves on the boards of directors at the Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery and UCare, and the board of trustees at Breck School.

Allison loves art, good food, and Prince.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • What Second Harvest Heartland is doing to make an impact on the community
  • How 2020 and the global pandemic have affected the efforts of Second Harvest Heartland
  • How the Minneapolis-St. Paul community has stepped up to the plate to fight the biggest year in hunger since the Great Depression
  • Second Harvest’s transition to a new location/warehouse right at the beginning of the pandemic, and what it took from a leadership perspective
  • How Allison continues to find inspiration in light of everything that has happened and the uncertainty that lies ahead


Eliminating Hunger as a Community

Allison O’Toole is the CEO of Second Harvest Heartland, a Minneapolis-St. Paul based food bank that partners with organizations and volunteers to feed hungry people. Since joining the organization in 2019, she has made massive strides in providing healthy foods to more people, rescuing more food from waste, and helping her neighbors weather increasing financial pressures—something that is especially important amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. In this episode of the Intentional Greatness podcast, Allison joins us to share her journey and talk about the work she is doing to fight the growing hunger epidemic in Minnesota.

Stepping Up to the Plate

2020 has been Second Harvest Heartland’s biggest year to date, and it has witnessed the largest surge in hunger since the Great Depression. This year, 1 in 8 Minnesotans are food-insecure, meaning they don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. That is double what it was during the Great Recession ten years ago. But the Minneapolis-St. Paul community is stepping up to the plate and proving they can meet that need with the right resources available to them.

Adapting to Change as a Leader

Allison says that, as a leader, you can be more creative because you are constantly adapting to the ebb and flow of everything around you. This notion was present when Second Harvest had to make the transition to a new location and warehouse right at the beginning of the pandemic, and it will be present in the future as communities adjust to the new normal. Even when we put the effects of the global pandemic behind us, the impact of the economic recession will affect food-insecure families for another 8-10 years minimum. Staying focused, holding each other accountable, and finding creative solutions to provide food to those in need no matter what circumstances exist is a surefire way to make it through this.

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