The Lowcountry Food Bank's Board of Directors chairperson, Shelley Yuhas, announced Thursday that president and CEO, Pat Walker will retire this year.
The Lowcountry Food Bank Board of Directors will begin the process of conducting a nationwide search for a new president and CEO. Walker will remain at the helm of the Lowcountry Food Bank this year until a new position holder is named.
"I have been very fortunate to have served as the President & CEO of Lowcountry Food Bank for eight years," said Walker as she announced her retirement. "Leading the Food Bank has been a deeply satisfying experience and has given me the opportunity to guide this organization through great accomplishments and achievements. I appreciate the support and confidence of the Board of Directors over my tenure. They are passionate and committed to finding a leader who will guide the Food Bank to even greater achievements in the future. The staff at Lowcountry Food Bank is knowledgeable and unwavering about the mission of the organization, and I know they will continue to lead the fight against hunger in the Lowcountry for many years to come. It has been an honor, privilege, and joy to serve with them."
Walker has served Lowcountry Food Bank as president and CEO since January 2012. She has led the Food Bank through significant growth, strategic improvements and tremendous change. Early in her tenure, she and the Lowcountry Food Bank's Board of Directors adopted a vision to increase the amount and quality of food distributed and to reach more people in our community − especially those who need food assistance the most.
Walker leaves a legacy of financial stewardship along with a talented, knowledgeable and committed staff and Board. Under her leadership, the Lowcountry Food Bank has increased the pounds of food distributed by 72.6% and serves over 200,000 people each year. The staff and Board have maintained a laser-like focus on food insecurity to ensure that our children, neighbors and seniors do not suffer from hunger.
Longtime Lowcountry Food Bank supporter Paul Hulsey shared, "Pat approached her responsibilities as CEO with an almost religious fervor. Feeding people was much more than a job, it was an avocation. She dedicated herself day and night to the proposition that no child should go to bed hungry. Under her tenure, we expanded our outreach to include families from the 10 coastal counties of South Carolina, increasing our food distribution from 18 million pounds in 2012 to over 32 million pounds in 2019. As we grew exponentially in size, she instilled a family culture within the Food Bank emphasizing how important each and every employee was to the success of our mission. Her energetic community outreach resulted in our raising almost $500,000 in one night alone at Chefs' Feast 2020. As a result of her tireless efforts and devotion to winning the war against hunger, she has positioned the Lowcountry Food Bank well to respond to the challenges of the coming decade. On behalf of my family and the entire Lowcountry Food Bank staff, I can assure you she will be sorely missed."
During her tenure at Lowcountry Food Bank, Walker oversaw the expansion of the Zucker Family Production Kitchen where meals are prepared for children, senior and veterans' programs. Since 2012, the number of prepared meals has increased 163%. Anita Zucker, whose family donated the funding for the Zucker Family Production Kitchen, commented that "Pat Walker has been an amazingly effective and efficient leader and has taken the Lowcountry Food Bank to new heights."
During the past eight years, the Lowcountry Food Bank has exceeded all established goals and expectations set by Feeding America for growth in food distribution and service to those who are food insecure in the 10 counties served by LCFB. Lowcountry Food Bank has three regional food centers in Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Yemassee.
Under her guidance, the Lowcountry Food Bank has become the local leader in nutrition education programs by becoming a SNAP-Ed certified agency, providing educational programs to people of all ages, including how to cook healthy meals and how to choose and purchase nutritious food on a limited budget.
Entering the second year of a five-year strategic plan, the Lowcountry Food Bank is focused more than ever on equitable distribution of healthy food. The Food Bank is identifying and serving more people in its service area where daily access to healthy food is significantly limited.
Walker serves as Treasurer of Feeding the Carolinas, the newly formed association of food banks in North and South Carolina, is on the Contract Task Force for Feeding America, is active in TogetherSC, serves on the Community Leadership Council of the Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative and Ingevity's Community Leadership Board. She previously served on the Governing Board of East Cooper Medical Center and is active at Christ Our King Catholic Church in Mount Pleasant.
"Pat Walker has been an exceptional CEO for the Lowcountry Food Bank. Alongside all the records she has broken during her eight years at the helm, her greatest achievement has been the team she has built. Galvanized behind their mission, this team works with excellence toward ending hunger in coastal South Carolina. I've never worked with such a passionate group of individuals who daily work together to serve their neighbors. She has also forged relationships with many nonprofits and business leaders working toward collective goals. It has been an honor to work with Pat and she will be greatly missed," Yuhas said.
Walker previously worked for the Lowcountry Food Bank's partner agency, East Cooper Meals on Wheels, for 10 years, serving as its president and CEO after completing a 30-year career in education as both a high school teacher and counselor.