Loree D. Jones, who has worked in education, the nonprofit world, and city government, will become the new head of Philabundance, one of the region’s largest anti-hunger organizations.
She takes over in the midst of a pandemic that is killing hundreds in the area and disrupting the emergency food supply upon which more and more residents rely. Philabundance distributed 26 million pounds of food in 2019, which fed more than 90,000 people weekly in Philadelphia, its suburbs, and portions of South Jersey. This year’s figure is expected to top 30 million pounds in the wake of the virus.
Jones, 51, chief of staff to the chancellor of Rutgers-Camden, will become CEO of Philabundance on June 2, succeeding Glenn Bergman, the former executive director, who left in March.
“These are unprecedented times,” said Jones, who served as chief of staff of the School Reform Commission, the former governing body of the Philadelphia School District, from 2012 till 2014. She also was chief of external affairs for the district from 2014 to 2015, and managing director of the city under Mayor John F. Street in 2007.
“I believe that’s what I’m here for — my experience," she said. "But I’ll be joining a strong team, which gives me comfort. It’s a huge challenge for us.”
Because of COVID-19, growing unemployment is causing hunger to spike, and at the same time, shelf-stable food supplies are dwindling because panic buying has left the stores with little food to donate.
Adding to the difficulties, the corps of mostly senior citizens who help run pantries has been decimated, not by the coronavirus but the fear of it, resulting in the shuttering of at least 70 of 350 pantries supplied by Philabundance.
The agency is joined in the effort to bring food to low-income residents by the Share Food Program, which distributes food to about 500 pantries in the area.
“I can’t think of a better person to put in the middle of a crisis than Loree,” said Estelle Richman, herself a former managing director of the city, as well as Pennsylvania secretary of welfare and chief operating officer of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“Loree can stay focused on the main issue for Philabundance, which is making sure people are fed. She’s calm in crisis. And she’ll be thinking of not only what we do in the middle of the coronavirus, but how to help people in the future.”
What will guide Jones through the pandemic and beyond are her abilities to “communicate as well as to energize other people to do great things,” said her latest boss, Phoebe A. Haddon, chancellor of Rutgers-Camden. “She has the skill set to be a terrific leader.”
Jones said she was drawn long ago to public service, “as corny as that sounds."
A graduate of the Philadelphia High School for Girls, Jones has a history degree from Spelman College, a historically black liberal arts college for women in Atlanta. She earned a master’s degree in history from Princeton University. She is single and lives in Mount Airy.
She served as co-executive director of City Year Greater Philadelphia, an educational nonprofit in which young people serve as tutors and mentors to public school students. She also has been executive director of the African Studies Association, the world’s largest scholarly association for the study of Africa.
“Loree has consistently delivered extraordinary results in the nonprofit and public sectors,” said John F. Hollway, chair of the Philabundance board and associate dean of the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. “To achieve our goal of reducing not just hunger but also poverty ... we will need to expand our current services and work with like-minded organizations ... to redesign our region’s social safety net.”
For anyone who might doubt Jones’ ability to focus, those who know her bring up her days of working with Street when he was leading very long walks to train for a 20-mile charity walk around 2007.
“He asked a few of us working for him to commit to it, and I said, ‘Sure, why not?’” Jones recalled.
The “why not?” part soon became obvious, as Jones was walking more than eight miles every Sunday with Street and others for about four months.
She doesn’t walk those distances anymore, she said. “But,” she added, “I tell young people that’s an interesting way to connect with a new boss.”
It’s not clear what Jones’ salary will be. Bergman, her predecessor, made around $170,000 annually, according to public filings.
Staff writer Dylan Purcell contributed to this article.