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Executive Director, Rodney W. Bivens

Rodney Bivens | Founder and Executive Director, Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

Rodney W. Bivens is the founder and executive director of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. His work with other nonprofit agencies led him to witness what hunger can do to individuals and families. Out of his personal conviction that no one should have to face hunger in a nation blessed with so much abundance, he founded the organization in 1980.

Born and raised in Chickasha, Oklahoma, Bivens and his three older brothers grew up on a farm just outside of town. After his father was disabled in a car accident, the Bivens' family came to rely on friends, family and church to help them keep food on their table. This experience left Bivens with a unique perspective on the impact of hunger on children and families in Oklahoma.

Under his leadership, the Regional Food Bank has grown rapidly to fulfill the need for food in central and western Oklahoma. In its first year of operation, the Regional Food Bank distributed 280,000 pounds of food, which is now distributed in about three days. The nonprofit provides enough food to feed more than 90,000 people every week with administrative and fundraising costs of less than five percent. Since its inception in 1980, the Food Bank has distributed more than 391 million pounds of food to needy families.

Bivens and his team at the Regional Food Bank developed one of the first rural distribution systems in the country, which has become a model for other food banks. The Regional Food Bank currently serves more than 1,000 charitable feeding programs and elementary schools throughout 53 counties in central and western Oklahoma, and distributes nationally donated product to four other food banks in Kansas, Texas and New Mexico, as well.

The Regional Food Bank was the first in the nation to implement an online inventory and agency ordering system with new technology for increased efficiency in food distribution. Other efficiency initiatives implemented at the food bank facilitate energy conservation, solid waste reduction, air quality controls and sustainable living techniques for a more efficient operation.

Bivens has also shepherded other innovative programs into existence at the Regional Food Bank, including Urban Harvest, an urban sustainable agriculture program that aims to teach individuals and community groups to grow their own food organically. The Regional Food Bank also implemented the Food for Kids Backpack Program, which provides a backpack full of weekend food to chronically hungry elementary children throughout the school year. The program began in 2003 as a pilot program in five urban elementary schools, and it now serves more than 13,500 children in the state Oklahoma. The School Pantry program was an off-shoot of the backpack program when it became evident that hunger didn't end at the elementary school playground.  There are now close to 80 school pantries in middle and high schools in Oklahoma serving the needs of chronically hungry students.

As the founder of the 21st food bank in the U.S., Bivens has 29 years of experience fighting domestic hunger; he is seen as a leader in the food banking arena. Bivens served on the board of directors of Feeding America for more than 12 years in various positions. He also helps in national disaster relief efforts, and in 2005, set up an emergency relief warehouse for Hurricane Katrina and Rita storm victims. In less than four weeks, he helped to distribute more than 8 million pounds of relief supplies in the New Orleans area.

Bivens has dedicated his entire professional life to social services and improving the quality of life in central Oklahoma. Before founding the organization, he was Director of Hunger and Aging at Neighborhood Services Organization and Director of Social Services at the Mary Mahoney Health Center. He was awarded the prestigious John Van Hengel award in 2007 in recognition of his outstanding efforts in the fight against hunger. In 2008, the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits recognized the Regional Food Bank with the Oklahoma Nonprofit Excellence award.

Bivens holds a master's degree in social work from the University of Oklahoma and a bachelor's degree in sociology from Southeastern State College. He is a graduate of Class IV of Leadership Oklahoma City, a member of the Alumni Association, board member of the Homeless Alliance, member of the national Executive Director's Forum, and member of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce.

To learn more about Bivens and the Regional Food Bank, watch this video:

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