Alum Robin Safley Accepts Position as Executive Director of Florida Association of Food Banks

On January 18th of this year, Robin Safley (B.A. ’85) started her newest adventure as the Executive Director of the Florida Association of Food Banks (FAFB). This position will involve her working in internal operations with staff and board members to run the business, as well as creating a vision and strategy for meeting the needs of hungry Floridians.

The communication skills that Safley learned during her years at Florida State helped guide her towards this impressive new position. When she attended Florida State, the communication program offered a pre-law track. She took advantage of this opportunity, joining the debate team and working on her argumentative skills and eventually earning her J.D. in law.

Safley shares, “Along with the other skills of conveying a story or message in a compelling way, the art of critical thinking and debate have helped me tremendously in advocating throughout my career.”

Since she just started her job, Safley spends a lot of time getting to know the employees, understanding their daily tasks and goals and getting input on any refinements that can be made. She meets with each board member to understand their goals and the strategies that must be employed to reach as many hungry people as possible in a state as diverse as Florida. She also builds statewide collaborations with communities and policy leaders so that hungry individuals know how to get connected to resources in the first place. It’s a lot of hard work – but it’s all worth it to Safley.

She says, “Hunger is a complicated issue and can be defined as not having enough food. However, you can be nutritionally starved. Individuals who are hungry or don’t have access to nutritious food fail to thrive and this creates many complicating factors such as low performance in school and chronic disease. Ensuring Floridians are fed is an investment in the overall success of our state. Knowing that every day I am working with a group of people who genuinely care and are making that investment to solve hunger is exhilarating.

Safley first got involved with helping the hungry in 2011 when Commissioner Adam Putnam hired her to handle the Child Nutrition Programs that were being moved from the Florida Department of Education to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. In 2012, she became the Division Director of the Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness, a program with an underlying purpose to minimize hunger. When the opportunity came around to be the Executive Director at FAFB, Safley couldn’t say no.

Safley explains, “Being the Executive Director of the Florida Association of Food Banks is the next natural step for me to work on these [hunger] issues from another seat at the same table. These issues will be solved at the community level and our food banks are the backbone of the food network for our communities.”

When she isn’t busy helping all Floridians have access to the bountiful crops grown by the state’s agricultural communities, Safley enjoys spending time outdoors. She began participating in triathlons in 2000, has completed 6 Iron Man races and recently purchased an off-road bike. Additionally, she celebrated her 50th birthday by swimming 12.5 miles around Key West.

She shares, “I love pushing myself, and, apparently, finish lines.”

Although Safley has never chosen to project where she will be in five years because you “never know when an opportunity will present itself,” she does hope that in five years she will be able to say that hunger is back in an acute setting that is truly temporary and that poverty is reduced.

To find out more about the Communication programs available at Florida State, follow this link. Additionally, to learn more about FAFB, click here.