In celebration of Local Matters' 10th anniversary, we are taking some time to reflect. Where have we come from? Who has nurtured our growth? Where are we now? What will the future hold? These are questions we have asked ten friends of Local Matters - ten people who have truly shaped the organization to be what it is today. Today's story comes from a conversation with the Michelle Moskowitz Brown, Executive Director at Local Matters.
“An organization has the ability to generate social change.” Michelle Moskowitz Brown, Executive Director with Local Matters, leans on this knowledge to spur growth and strategic planning forward. For Michelle, food is a vehicle for personal change and community development. So, an organization like Local Matters that works in food education, access, and advocacy is the perfect place for her to combine her personal passions and professional vision.
After moving from her native Brooklyn, New York, Michelle first came to Local Matters in a way not uncommon among staff: as a volunteer. In 2011, when Local Matters was three years old, Michelle volunteered by creating the Local Matters staff handbook, re-working the budget to be more useful and transparent, and organizing the first annual staff retreat. This structure-oriented entry into the organization is fitting for Michelle; throughout her time with Local Matters, Michelle has led change, growth, and opportunity grounded in process and trust.
When Michelle transitioned into her role as Executive Director in 2014, she shared a note with Local Matters’ friends and partners:
It’s my first week on the job as Executive Director and I am excited to be off and running. 2014 will be a big year for Local Matters, which includes us growing our program work by at least 15%. We have a goal to reach 8,625 individuals in our community in 2014 with in-depth, life-changing educational programming, and to expand and deepen our community-engagement work in neighborhoods across the city to improve access to affordable, nutritious food.
In some ways, it might seem like not much has changed since 2014. Local Matters still works to connect our community with ‘in-depth, life-changing education programming… [and] improve access to affordable, nutritious food.’ However, since 2014, Michelle has led the organization through increasing partnerships, growing programs, developing staff, and stabilizing budgets. She has helped shaped how Local Matters is recognized in the community – a reliable, resourceful, and fun partner. Because of the growth that Michelle has led, Local Matters now works with 100 partners throughout Central Ohio and reaches over 18,000 individuals with that in-depth, life-changing food education programming.
Staying focused on building structure and process can be difficult, but Michelle leads with a presence that makes you believe it’s second nature. She says: “I get up with passion every morning. If I don’t have it, I smile, put on some music, and then I have it.” Such energy is contagious, and it spreads to the whole team. Michelle would say that it’s a cycle of energy, and that “seeing our educators and team in action” helps her gather energy.
The change we are starting to see in how Central Ohio views food education and access is intentional. Children, families, residents, and doctors are learning about healthy, delicious food choices for a reason. It has been planned, strategized, and worked toward for years, and will be for years to come. Leaders like Michelle have made that possible.