Honoring Ken Hecht

Thank you, Ken!

Ken Hecht, one of our founders and our long-time executive director, is leaving California Food Policy Advocates to pursue nutrition policy opportunities overseas. Please help us send him off with due thanks and well wishes.

Thank you, Ken!

After 20 years of leadership, Ken Hecht is leaving California Food Policy Advocates to apply his skills and vision overseas. To read more about Ken's transition, please see this message from CFPA's board president. link

For decades, Ken has worked to eliminate social and economic inequities. In doing so, he has improved the health and well-being of low-income individuals and families throughout California and the nation at large. As an advocate, leader, collaborator, and mentor, Ken has inspired many of us to carry on this work in his stead.

If you would like to share your thanks or well wishes with Ken, please do so in the form below (scroll to the bottom). Be sure to include your name and email. Also, to thwart spambots, please type in the code that you see at the bottom of the page. When you are done, click "Send."  (All comments will be reviewed before they are posted.)

Thank you for helping us celebrate Ken's years of hard work and stellar accomplishments.


Edie Jessup
sent 11.22.2011 9:37am

Dear Ken,
So, you think you can escape?
You have been the mentor for me for over 10 years. Your gentle, wise, and warm responses to my conundrums in working in the Central Valley on food advocacy and policy have kept me going. You have written a gazillion letters of support at the last minute for grants, heard my whining and helped me continue to contribute. You are an iconic hero to me. Your graciousness has impacted me tremendously.
Thank you, and don't think you can just go overseas and do good things, and not continue your connections here.
I also want to thank Christina and your family for sharing you all these years.
Much Love,
Edie Jessup (and Bryan too!)
Edie Jessup
Program Development Specialist
Central Ca. Regional Obesity Prevention Program (CCROPP)

Lucy Hicks
sent 11.22.2011 8:49pm

Dearest Ken:

11 years ago, after a long drive into San Francisco from the thriving metropolis of Geyserville, I flew into the CFPA office for a sit down meeting with you about a job promoting an interesting concept known as Provision 2. Our conversation was exciting and I was so impressed and thrilled to finally meet someone who REALLY cared about low income kids getting food… healthy food…my eyes were glistening. After 10 years in school finance, this was an amazing opportunity for me – you made it happen and I am so thankful. Working with you for 8 years and knowing you as the wonderful, kind, thoughtful person you are has been the icing on the cake! I can say with all honesty that you have been THE BEST boss I have ever had (and I've had a few good ones). I miss you now and I'll miss you when you and Christina begin your new and exciting journey to far away lands, but you will always hold a very special place in my heart and I will continually thin k of you with a smile. All the best and one more thing….I still to this day believe you hired me because I sang opera so long ago – LONG LIVE OPERA!!!

With my deepest respect and highest regards….Lucy Hicks


Genoveva Islas-Hooker
sent 12.2.2011 10:31pm


Selfishly I wish you wouldn't go anywhere. You have been a great source of advice and encouragement. I will miss you.

Unselfishly I am so excited for you. I will be living vicariously through you on your international travels and retirement of leisure. I know this is really a ploy to build a worldwide mass of admirers.:-)

You are a fantastic person and I am better for knowing you. Looking forward to the occasional postcard. Take care and have fun.


Lorrene Ritchie
sent 12.3.2011 at 6:52pm

I can hardly imagine work without you… Who will call and leave me disgruntled voice mail when I don't pick up right away? Who will see the humor in the ridiculous that we regularly encounter in our work? Who will remind me to nix the academic research-speak from our reports? Who will charm all the funders? Who will be the source of wisdom and wit on the weekly conference calls? Who will keep us singlularly focused on the bottom line – healthy food for the kids who need it most? Who will write so eloquently to advocate for the voiceless? How will we channel you going forward? How can you think of leaving all the fun? Have you been coaxed, cojoled, shamed, and complimented into coming out of retirement yet?

All kidding aside, I remain one of your biggest and most devoted fans! Thank you for so many, many things! You are a gift!
Lorrene Ritchie
UC Berkeley Center for Weight and Health


Sue Sigler

sent 12.5.2011 at 4:40pm

Ken –

On behalf of the food bank community, I want to recognize the extraordinary contributions you have made to our mutual work and to people in need through the years. There are countless folks who will never know that they have been sustained by your compassion and hard work. Wherever your next steps may lead you, we hope that it will be with a sense of pride and satisfaction in your accomplishments and a job well done.

-Sue Sigler
California Association of Food Banks 


David Ginsburg
sent 12.10.2011 at 1:24pm

Wow, hard to believe it is true. Thanks so much for all you have done and for the impact you have had an reducing hunger and the challenges our families face. Wishing you all the best overseas and hope you are able to have as great of an impact there as you have had here!



Peter Carlson
sent 12.12.2011 at 7:32pm

Thanks for rescuing me from SHARE.

I enjoyed our mutual respect. You didn't tell me how to do my job, and I didn't tell you how to do yours.

I look forward to many more lunches together.

Best wishes,



Robin Stillwell
sent 12.14.2011 at 10:00am


Thank you so much for your vision and tireless work. It's been a pleasure to work with you and we know that you'll have a huge impact in your new endeavors. All the best!

Robin & Susannah
Food Bank of Alaska


Melody Steeples
sent 12.14.2011 at 11:21am

I am so excited for you as you embark on this next stage of your life.

I will miss your friendly smile, your wry humor, and your dedicated action in California's food security scene.

Wishing you safe and happy travels and much continued success.



David Proctor
sent 12.14.2011 at 11:15am

Ken, thanks for everything you've done, including coming to Boise for the Idaho Hunger Summit. All the best as you take this next big step.



Stacy Dean
sent 12.15.2011 at 9:40am


Thank you so much for everything. You've been a delight to know and to work with all these years. Most of all, I want to thank you for your gift of CFPA. You've built a wonderful treasure for California as well as for those of us working on nutrition issues at the national level.

I can't wait to see what you do next!



Patti Whitney-Wise
sent 12.15.2011 at 9:42am

Hey Ken,

A great big thanks and best wishes as you take your caring and concern and passion to other countries–we will really miss your presence here but know your new journey will enrich those you work with.



George Manalo-LeClair
sent 12.15.2011 at 11:22am

Dear Ken,

I am uneasy about putting my thanks into words.  You write so beautifully and effectively.  I know words are so important to you.  So let me include three words in this tribute – one word you love and two you hate.

Stunning.  That is your most frequently used word.  You have had stunning success.  Thanks to your leadership, schools are healthier and families throughout the state have far greater resources for food. 

Charming.  I know you hate this word since I made the mistake years ago of complimenting you on your charm.  Like most times when I have complimented you, you were uncomfortable in the moment but grateful days later.  But I think the charming compliment did bother you for a while longer.  For many advocates charm is a tool – something to turn on or off depending on the amount of persuasion needed.  But I think you were charming all the time.  It wasn't a tool, it is just who you are.  I stand by my compliment.

Agnostic. I know you hate this word more than any other.  I have seen how irritated you get when someone says they are "agnostic" on an issue.  You never understood how on some tough issues people could be dispassionate or position-less.  Even when your position on an issue moved – from support toward opposition – you never stopped at agnostic.  You always cared.  And thankfully you did care. You were never, ever agnostic on the tough questions surrounding hunger and health.

Only one word left to say: Thanks.  Thanks for being such a terrific mentor and for creating such a wonderful space for other advocates to grow both personally and professionally.  We will honor your work by carrying it on.

-George Manalo-LeClair


Paula James
sent 12.15.2011 at 11:27am

Dear Ken

If the phone rings it's me. 

You have been a mentor, a wise advisor, a sounding board, an inspiration, a visionary, an understanding listener. Your path has been guided by both your integrity and your motto of  "it's the right thing to do".  You've worked hard to eliminate barriers to food access, with the goal of helping to make the lives of struggling families, children and  neighbors a little better. And now you will broaden your  sphere of influence..the world is at your feet (assuming Christina is still willing to share you!). You have added quality to my life and to multitudes of others.  You are a dear friend . 




Nancy Amidei
sent 12.16.2011 at 10:09am

Ah Ken,

You've had such a long, wonderful run: doing good; fighting for those who needed a champion; mentoring those who needed a teacher; and most of all playing an important role in the fight against hunger.

Plus, you've done it all with grace and smarts, winning the respect of everyone from policy wonks and electeds in Washington, DC, to local volunteers.

Like so many others, I am happy for you; sorry for the rest of us. Count me among the many fans and admirers – wishing you well in your new endeavors.

Nancy Amidei 


Zoe Nueberger
sent 12.16.2011 at 11:28am

You are one of those rare people I can always count on to approach an issue with thoughtfulness, kindness, and insight.

I will miss working with you regularly and hope that our paths continue to cross–



Paula Hamilton
sent 12.16.2011 at 2:56pm

Dear Ken,

Let me add my thanks and appreciation. You are a man among men who has inspired all of us. Your contribution is immeasurable and has improved the lives of countless families.

I know that your next phase will have impact on an even broader level and I look forward to sharing your future successes.

Warmest wishes for a brilliant future,



Matt Sharp

sent 1.1.2012 at 11:39am

Well, Ken. Where to begin? Where to end?

I could express gratitude that you exposed me to Olivier Messiaen and Edwidge Danticat -or that I shared Orhan Pamuk with you! I can't begin to summarize all the laughs, all the grant reports, or to describe the small but colorful pebbles we've added to the path towards progress, towards fairness. Among many, many, many – too many – memories, a few are worth committing to paper because they taught me something.

On my first day at work, I showed up at a national conference held in Los Angeles. My assignment was to find CFPA's executive director. These were the days before our photos were posted on the website…or before there was a website. During the conference's opening plenary, there was a heated debate between two dug-in camps of attendees about their inability to forge a shared vision – should food security be defined as self-sufficiency with communities growing their own food?, or should food security be about mitigating the consequence of poverty by providing food donations and public benefits? You rose and pointedly told everyone to listen to each other more carefully. You explained to both sides that their differences were neither unresolvable nor worthy of as much time as their agreement and common purpose. Your style hasn't changed much since: putting into practice your decades of experience listening to different points of view and seeking consensus in order to make progress instead of just trying to win.

During a meeting in Congress, a member of the US House of Representatives interrupted our talking points to insert a videotape into the television set in his office. We watched a series of commercials for his reelection campaign that were filmed in school cafeterias. Having enough experience at CFPA to have internalized your famous modesty, I was bewildered at the prospect that school meals could have actual electoral relevance with the voting public, so I asked the Congressmember to explain. He replied that you gave him some useful changes to make that helped students in his district. He thought that voters should know about it and send him back to DC to do more. Cultivating and supporting champions is a hallmark of your approach to building long-term partners that will fight for those in need during their entire career. You've carefully linked the arcane details of policy victories and a public narrative, forging an amazingly resilient nutrition safety net.

Given the frequency of our contact –more often than with any of my family members – it is not surprising that I received my first text message from you. It was sent while you were sitting across the table from me in a restaurant in Tijuana. You were thrilled that your youngest son Gus had just turned you onto the latest phenomenon and wanted to show off this new trick. Of course the novelty wore off once you received the bill for the international charges, but the energy that your children give you informs your creativity, keeps you on your toes and serves as an important reminder to me to always pay attention to my children for the cues I need to stay fresh and current.

It has been fun, and it will continue to be fun.




Arnell Hinkle

sent 1.28.2012 at 12:33pm


Dear Ken,

The start of 2012 just soen't seem the same without checking in with you about policy priorities for the year, and reports on holiday happenings.

At your swell "Transitioning Celebration", much was said, but I wanted an opportunity to add my two cents, so here goes:

"10 things that I learned about being an excutive director from Ken Hecht"

10 – Graciousness
9 – Importance of being the one to take the meeting minutes
8 – How to schmooze over lunch
7 – The strategic advantage of having an executive session scheduled on every Board meetign agenda (whether you need it or not)
6 – Why the Summer Food Program is a winner
5 – How to tell your Board you're going on sabbatical to France
4 – Writing an elegant, effective policy brief
3 – How to take advantage of drives to/from Sacramento
2 – How to handle Marion and Laurie
1 – The wisdom of always taking at least one month off each year to spend on Martha's Vineyard

Thanks so much, Ken. I miss you already. Let's do lunch!



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