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All Faiths Food Bank CEO leaves behind bigger, stronger nonprofit

Sandra Frank, who helped grow the food bank, will retire after 12 years with the organization.

Sandra Frank
Sandra Frank
Photo by Ian Swaby
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The symbol of two fruits merging together to form a heart shape is recognized throughout Sarasota’s community.

But not everyone knows that All Faiths Food Bank owes the decision to adopt its current logo to Sandra Frank, who retired as the nonprofit’s CEO at the end of 2023.

Today, the food bank is a different place than the one Frank came to 12 years ago. 

The facility is more than double the size, with an exterior Frank said allows people to sense the concept of the organization and offers a vibrance and energy.

Twelve years ago, she said, the food bank was offering around 5 million pounds per year, while now it offers about 22 million pounds. The operating budget which was once $3 million is now around $14 million.

“2023 has been a phenomenal year in terms of outcomes, the good work we've done, the number of people we fed, and this is also the time in our entire history that we have the strongest leadership team,” she said, calling the end of the year the perfect time to step away. 

Following a national search for a new CEO, Frank is being succeeded by Nelle Miller, a former chair of the board of directors of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

A simple yet multifaceted mission

When Frank was inspired to join All Faiths Food Bank 12 years ago, arriving in Sarasota from Michigan, she found herself welcomed into the community, with staff believing in her ability to work together with them. 

“There aren’t words for it, for how appreciative I am, how much I value this opportunity, and giving back and having an impact in meaningful work,” Frank said. “I don't have the words for it.”

It was the organization’s mission that drew her in, due to her career in maternal and child health. She said it is her personal belief that focusing on childhood hunger and health is the most important thing that someone can do. 

Yet there is more to the role than that central mission itself. Despite its altruistic purpose, the operation has all the components of a business to manage.

“I think what many people forget, and that many times leaders forget, is that bottom line is, (a nonprofit) is a business, so it has all the components of a business, but it comes forward with heart, it comes forward with a mission,” she said.

Frank is recognized for pursuing initiatives like developing new strategies of engagement with the community, increasing the scope of services beyond food, revising the food bank’s brand and expanding its mission beyond feeding people and into a more ambitious goal — ending hunger. 

Yet the many components of running the food bank do not cover the full scope of the challenges, with the COVID-19 pandemic having dramatically impacted operations.

Frank said hunger suddenly rose to become a concern second to health, when people who went to work one morning did not have a job by the afternoon. The programs the food bank had planned had to be paused, and Frank saw that she could no longer follow through with her original plans to step away from the organization in 2020. 

“There was absolutely no way, no way I could walk away from the organization at that point,” she said. 

Frank remained in the role an additional two years, one-and-a-half of which involved COVID-19 response. 

Everyone at the food bank saw the effects of the pandemic, she said. 

“You really felt the impact. It was a blow to your plan, and it was literally a physical barrier to forward movement.”

She said today, the consequences of the pandemic have more or less plateaued. 

Implementing a vision

Among her contributions, Frank is proudest of the food bank’s Campaign Against Summer Hunger, an annual effort to engage the community in helping feed the area’s children, which began in 2014 and includes the Walk to End Summer Hunger event.

The effort came about after a study by the food bank showed that over half of children in schools relied on free and reduced meal programs, and Frank said the campaign captured the notice of the community. 

“They were shocked by the number of children who were hungry, they were shocked, and then motivated to do something about it. That just really spoke to people,” she said. 

Recognition in the community has been a driving focus of her work, which is why, for the food bank’s logo, Frank attempted to establish an image as easily recognizable as the Nike Swoosh.

“That was so much fun,” she said of the design process, which involved working with a firm, using the community’s input. 

In the logo, some see an apple, some see a carrot and others see beets, but everyone sees a heart, and the logo is instantly recognized as staff members walk about in public wearing branded pins, Frank said.

Also featured prominently on the logo is what, under Frank’s tenure, became the organization’s central mission: “Ending Hunger.” 

Part of that effort has been the expansion to services like benefits assistance, outreach and social work, growing the food bank to bring the main focus of its work to services outside of providing food. 

Frank is confident the organization has the mechanisms in place needed to keep that mission moving.

Food items line the shelves in the food bank's warehouse facility in Sarasota.
Photo by Ian Swaby

Some of those features include infrastructure, like an expansion to the All Faiths Food Bank DeSoto Food and Resource Center, a facility which addresses rural hunger, which held a ribbon cutting the week of Dec. 18. 

In about two years, a similar expansion project will come to the facility in Sarasota County, covering both the program and operations areas and adding additional cooler and freezer space.

In good hands

Frank began building the current leadership team 10 years ago,when she hired Chief Development Officer Denise Cotler, later bringing on a new chief program officer Maria Jose Horen in 2021, a new chief financial officer Timothy Taylor in 2022 and a new chief logistics officer Bill Haley in 2023. 

Frank describes the culture of the organization as valuing “respect, excellence, transparency and trust,” and she has been spending time helping bridge any style or communication differences among the team alongside an executive coach, and has been assisting with the transition of Nelle Miller into the role of CEO. 

“The organization won’t be jarred — no stutter steps, no stops and starts, because she’s already in the plane with me. I’m piloting, but right now, I’m literally stepping away,” she said. 

Frank said Miller’s reputation in the community has increased the ease of the transition.

“They know who she is. They know her her style. They know how respected she is in the community, so it's made it, in terms of the staff, a little easier transition.”

Now, Frank will take the time to focus on herself, including traveling to many U.S. national parks with her husband Dennis Campbell.

“Honestly, I'm going to focus on getting to know myself, because I have been the food bank and the food bank has been me," she said. 



Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.

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