Ellsworth oversees Second Harvest of the Big Bend

Monique Ellsworth is CEO of Second Harvest of the Big Bend. Photo by Ralph Cantave

On some days you can find Monique Ellsworth at her office working on strategies to feed the vulnerable communities in the Big Bend. Other days she may be fundraising, networking or delivering a speech or lecture at an event. She may also be at a farm, working alongside volunteers to pick fresh greens to be cooked at the homeless shelter later that day.

Ellsworth, who grew up on a farm, is the new CEO of Second Harvest of the Big Bend. It’s an organization that combats hunger and food insecurities in the eight-county Big Bend.

According to Feeding America, Leon County is ranked among the top five food insecure counties in the state. According to Ellsworth, Second Harvest is en route to delivering a record 18 million pounds of food.

Her journey to this position began during her internship while she studied social work at Florida State University. She spent two years at the Renaissance Community Center working as the assistant director. That’s where she developed leadership skills which led to her becoming CEO of the Kearney Center in 2015.

One of the biggest challenges she endured during that time was moving the center to a new location. Ellsworth and her team had to prepare a location for approximately 300 people and ensure the facilities were working to provide the essential needs. She also faced backlash during the “tiny house” development project due to members of the neighborhood who protested the location of the homes.

Ellsworth was able to navigate the issue and proceed with the project.

With this new appointment at Second Harvest and its many demands, Ellsworth finds stability in her work-life balance by keeping strong boundaries: “To protect myself from a job that never ends,” she said.

She does so by getting enough sleep, through running and exercise and being held accountable by her support group.

As a community leader, Ellsworth says “trust” is one of the biggest issues facing Tallahassee. She said that the community could do more by assuming the goodwill of each other and community leaders. She commends the city for its initiatives such as the Tallahassee Engaged in Meaningful Productivity for Opportunity, which addresses the needs of at-risk and undeserved youth.

“In Leon County, we have 10,000 children who likely do not have dinner tonight,” Ellsworth said. She believes that hunger is a byproduct of an under-resourced house and the high cost of living.

Her main goals as CEO are to increase knowledge of Second Harvest and its multifaceted responsibility in the community. She intends on increasing support, efficiency and engagement for community initiatives through partnerships.

Ellsworth was named CEO of the organization in October 2019. She replaced Rick Minor, who had been elected to the Leon County Commission in November 2018.

“It was Moniques’s experience, vision and energy for Second Harvest’s mission that really stood out,” Jowanna Nicole Oates, president of the board, said in a press release.

Second Harvest is part of the statewide association of Feed Florida, and a member of national coalition of Second Harvest organizations.