Ronda Rutledge

Ronda Rutledge
  • What does your organization do?

    The Sustainable Food Center is a hunger relief and sustainable agriculture agency – our mission is to cultivate a healthy community by strengthening the local food system and improving access to nutritious, affordable food.
  • How did you become interested in this work?

    I’m keenly interested in a whole-systems approach to hunger relief and protecting our natural resources, keeping our environment free of toxins, pesticides, farm animal abuse, etc. In a sustainable food system, our air/water/soil quality is protected so that families can grow their own healthy food, feeding themselves and becoming self-sufficient. In a just food system, everyone has access to nutritious, affordable food – unlike the food-like substances pumped out of our industrial agricultural system contributing to hunger, diet-related diseases, and cancer while poisoning our environment and confining animals to horrid situations before they make the ultimate sacrifice of ending up on our plates.
  • What drives your passion?

    I’m driven by my cultural heritage and what resonates for me spiritually as a Native American. There was a time when everyone fed themselves, their families and their communities – a time food brought communities together rather than dividing them between the have’s and the have not’s. We’ve given up control over our food system and allowed a small conglomerate of agribusiness entities to dictate how food would be grown and distributed. I believe that the inherent leadership among community members, many of whom are at the low end of the economic scale, is helping the pendulum swing back in the other direction with a groundswell of food gardens, farmers’ markets, seed sharing programs, and cooking education.
  • Did you have a mentor or a role model?

    One of my supervisors when I first became a therapist said the most amazing thing one day. “Everything is negotiable except for who’s in charge.” I certainly use that with my kiddos on a regular basis.
  • What's the biggest challenge in your work?

    There is still so much complacency about our broken food system. While many understand the connection between healthy, whole food in terms of hunger relief and health, many don’t think much about where their food comes from until something happens to them or a loved one. Many don’t make that connection between how we grow food and environmental degradation, which directly effects health, wealth and cultural disparities. So the biggest challenge is still awareness of the importance of this work.
  • What's the best advice that you have ever received?

    Trust your gut.
  • What are your top tips for new Executive Directors?

    Listen more than you talk, surround yourself with incredible talent, and take care of your mind/body/spirit. That work/life balance really is key – you’ll be the best Executive Director for your agency when you are the best YOU in the rest of your life.