North Texas Food Bank honors supporters, volunteers at awards ceremony

(From left to right: Trisha Cunningham/ North Texas Food Bank, John Votava/ Kroger, Dr. Valerie Hawthorne, Celia Cole/ Feeding Texas, Allison Miller/ Access Healthcare, Daniel Riff/ DoorDash, Julia Underwood and Joe Pipes/ J.L. Williams Foundation, and David Cramer/Trinity Ceramics Supply.) Photo by North Texas Food Bank.
NTFB honored many organizations and supporters at the Golden Fork Awards ceremony starting with volunteers Anurag Jain and John Hermanson.

Several corporations, organizations and individuals were recognized at North Texas Food Bank’s annual Golden Fork Awards ceremony yesterday.

“This season each year, it is appropriate that we pause to formally recognize our most passionate hunger fighters and honor their unwavering support and commitment to serving the community,” said President and CEO Trisha Cunningham. “The North Texas Food Bank is fortunate to have such rich community support in our mission of closing the hunger gap in North Texas. We could not do what we do without the inspiring generosity and dedication of these individuals and organizations.”

The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Anurag Jain, the chairman and CEO of Access Healthcare.

Jain has served on the NTFB board for nine years and was board chair for three years. According to the organization, Jain invested in a technology solution called ShiftSmart to assist with volunteer shortages during the pandemic. He also set up a fund with the Communities Foundation to compensate unemployed hospitality industry workers as they replaced the volunteer workplace at the food bank.

“With this initiative, called Get Shift Done, 28,000 workers were employed and served over 60 million meals, and the concept was expanded to other parts of the country,” a press release said. “Get Shift Done was named the No. 1 Most Innovative Not-for-Profit Organization by Fast Company in 2021.”

Tom Black Volunteer of the Year was awarded to John Hermanson.

Since April of 2020, Hermanson has volunteered over 1,300 hours, served as Kernel (what NTFB calls its volunteer leaders) and trains new Kernels. “John Hermanson is a selfless, dedicated and hard-working volunteer whose passion for the food bank’s mission is evident in all he does,”  a press release said.

The 2023 Jan Pruitt Legacy Award was given to Valerie Hawthorne.

The award is given to a food bank employee or employee of a partner agency given yearly in honor of its eponymous late CEO Jan Pruitt, who led North Texas Food Bank for 20 years. Hawthorne received this year’s award after serving as director of government relations of NTFB for seven years. Under her leadership, both the Houston and North Texas food banks were awarded entry into Feeding America’s Advocacy Hall of Fame. Hawthorne was later accepted into Feeding America’s Advocacy Academy and awarded a fellowship and recognition by the Tableau Foundation for her implementation of data-based visualizations.

Corporation of the Year was awarded to Access Healthcare.

“During the height of the pandemic, Access Healthcare stepped up and provided more than 1.5 million nutritious meals to our neighbors facing food insecurity. Additionally, Access Healthcare generously welcomed our External Affairs team to their office when they had to vacate our Dallas Farmers Market location during construction,” a press release said. “By hosting NTFB during the busy holiday season, they ensured we didn’t miss a beat. After NTFB moved out, Access Healthcare also donated the office furniture to agencies in our Feeding Network. As a corporation that works to transform healthcare through technology and knowledge, Access Healthcare and its more than 27,000 employees have long been leaders in their industry. With the work they do at the NTFB, they are also leaders in making our community a better place to live and work.”

Other awards were given as follows:

  • Retail Partner of the Year – Kroger
  • Hunger Ambassador of the Year – Feeding Texas
  • In-Kind Donor of the Year – Empty Bowls Potters and Woodturners
  • Media Partner of the Year – Deborah Ferguson, news anchor for NBC5
  • Innovation Partner of the Year – DoorDash
  • Foundation of the Year – J.L. Williams Foundation
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