Trendsetter to Know: Jason Reed, President & CEO at United Food Bank

Name: Jason Reed

Twitter: @UnitedFoodBank

Facebook: @UnitedFoodBank

Instagram: @UnitedFoodBank


Age: 44

Title: President & Chief Executive Officer of the United Food Bank

Married/Single: Married to Dr. Sada Reed, Assistant Professor at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Kids: Two children—a 9-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl

City you live in: Phoenix, AZ

A typical day in my life includes… First, my spouse and I get our children ready and excited for school each morning. Then my typical workday includes meetings on different dimensions of our organization and mission – are we meeting the community’s demand for food, have we created the best culture/environment to achieve our goals, and are we creating enough community support for donations that help us fuel our mission? I spend my evenings with my family. We always eat dinner together and then it’s a combination of homework or clubs (Girl Scouts, Ahwatukee Lightning Lacrosse, and more). 

I was born… in Edina, Minnesota – it’s a little chilly there in the winter!

My favorite thing about Arizona… the generosity of Arizonans. Personally, I’ve met so many amazing and generous people and businesses in our community who have a genuine desire to lend support to our mission at the United Food Bank. These include donors who provide gifts that enable us to get food to anyone who needs it (we can turn every $1 donated into 5 meals), volunteers who lend us time to pack food, businesses who form cause marketing partnerships or sponsor events with us, and much more. 

I’m listening to… a documentary on the life of Theodore Roosevelt. I appreciate his love of the outdoors, the “point-to-point” hikes that he frequently led his children on, and the fun and high energy that he brought to the White House in the early 20th century. 

My family… mixes different cultures together in our learning and food. I’m the son of an immigrant from South Korea, so I try to infuse different Korean foods and cultural learnings into our family. My spouse has Norwegian heritage, and we spent several weeks with extended family in Norway last summer to speak the language and immerse them in the culture. 

If I could have dinner with anyone, it would be… J.J. Abrams – I would love to hear in-depth about his experiences directing so many award-winning shows and films like Lost, Star Trek, Star Wars, and Mission Impossible.  

One thing I cannot live without… close friendships. Life is more fulfilling and joyful when we have meaningful relationships to lean into.

When I was younger, I wanted to be… the next Michael Jordan, NBA basketball superstar. God had another plan for me, clearly. 🙂

I’m inspired by… We have a group of volunteer leaders at the United Food Bank – everyday people who come several times a week to lead and guide our food production processes. Many have retired from their careers, and they genuinely enjoy spending their time helping us and being with one another. It’s a remarkable community that inspires all of us at United Food Bank.

The one person who motivates me is… Jesus Christ

If I could change anything in the world, it would be… that every child would have enough good food to eat. This is much more difficult for children over the summer and during the weekend when many children don’t have access to meals at school.  

The perfect day would be… if fewer people in our community needed food today vs. yesterday. Every day we want fewer food insecure households.

My first job was… a host at a restaurant called Grandma’s Saloon & Grill in Bloomington, Minnesota. Some children from my neighborhood once admitted to me that they didn’t want to go to this restaurant because they thought they would be hugged and kissed by lots of “grandma’s” while eating. 🙂

My favorite escape…  I go running late at night to clear my head, enjoy the cooler temperatures, and see the fun holiday decorations that my neighbors put up between Halloween and New Years.  

My life… has been filled with steps and leaps. I’ve taken a few steps forward, and then a step or two backward at different points in my career, family, and personally. Sometimes, taking a step or two backwards, and reflecting, enables you to take a much bigger leap forward.

I’m currently working on… building a collective vision for the United Food Bank and strengthening the organization to meet Arizona’s need for food both today and tomorrow.

Always… be optimistic and work to lift others (staff, family, communities, etc.) upward. 

Never… be too pessimistic. I’ve found most don’t want to follow a pessimistic leader.

Favorite Quote… “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy

Biggest Dream… a world without hunger. I hope this is possible within my lifetime.

My Pet Peeve(s)… not being present in conversations – stuff happens of course so there’s grace there, but honor people’s time by genuinely giving uninterrupted two-way dialogue with your family, friends, partners, and colleagues.

Bio-on yourself/company: Jason Reed is the President and Chief Executive Officer of United Food Bank, a charitable organization with a mission to alleviate hunger in Arizona. United Food Bank works closely with local churches, schools, and community partners to provide 50,000 meals every day to Arizona families and seniors who are experiencing hunger.

Reed brings 20 years of proven executive and community leadership to the role, most recently he served as the Chief Innovation Officer of St. Vincent de Paul of Arizona. Prior to joining the nonprofit sector, Reed was a corporate strategist for Fortune 500 food manufacturing and healthcare companies at consultancy McCann Worldgroup, and previously with Ogilvy New York.

He also serves as chair of the board of directors for Adelante Healthcare, a community healthcare system that serves more than 80,000 patients with adult and family medicine, pediatrics, women’s health, nutrition services, dental, and behavioral health services across Maricopa County.

Reed holds a master’s degree from Harvard University and an undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota. He has been honored globally as a Fellow by The Aspen Institute in philanthropy and social innovation, and nationally, as a NextGen Fellow by Independent Sector.

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