Setting a table isn’t a requirement for feeding people, but that is Melanie Cataldi’s superpower. As Philabundance’s chief impact officer, she sees the big picture and helps to create environments for people to flourish.
Cataldi, who was well-established in a career in life insurance, went back to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and food science from Drexel. That’s when she fell in love with nutrition.
Cataldi pursued a master’s in public health to focus on nutrition and food insecurity, and the culinary arts workforce development program she developed as her master’s project eventually became the Philabundance Community Kitchen (PCK). “I joined Philabundance to start the program with a tiny grant and a partner with an empty industrial kitchen,” recalled Cataldi. She hoped then that with additional resources, it would grow. Cataldi realized she didn’t necessarily have to have specific expertise, she just had to “get the right people on the bus and get all the obstacles out of their way.”
This is exactly what would be needed to tackle Philabundance’s new strategic initiative: End Hunger for Good (EHFG). These new programs aren’t just about increasing food distribution, they’re about getting the right food to people and partnering with other social determinants of health, like housing and healthcare, to disrupt the cycle of food instability. As it is Cataldi’s superpower, she created an environment for success; she set the table. Gathering strong community organizations, critical service providers and leadership, she transitioned from her then COO title to oversee the organization’s new Impact Department with PCK, her years-ago originated culinary arts workforce development program, now the cornerstone of the EHFG initiative.
If you ask this leader if she is driving substantive and lasting change in ending hunger now and for good, she would tell you no. “It’s the people we hire and the organizations we partner with who have a deep passion for food justice and health equity,” responded Cataldi. "I just give them space to realize and use their own superpowers.”