Eileen Liponis grew up on leftovers. Whether her family was enjoying the “seconds” from her great uncle’s fruit farm or using Hudson River Herring guts as fertilizer for saplings—they saw food as part of a bigger cycle.

But when Eileen talks about food it’s more than just a basic resource, it has many lives—at its best, it’s a piece of home. Although we’re both in New Hampshire now, when Eileen recognized my New York area code she immediately shared the best NY pizza slice she’d found here. She’s tried Bavarian sausage restaurants all over the world and can’t find a place to rival The Alpine Pork Store in South Cairo, New York. She’s a compass for anyone who wants a memorable meal.

But food hasn’t always been Eileen’s main gig. Prior to joining the New Hampshire Food Bank as Executive Director, Eileen made a career in venture capital—cultivating entrepreneurship and bringing startups to life. As her dad put it, she was still a farmer, but she was “growing companies”. When faced with finding new options for her daughters’ education, she dove into charter school development and founded the NH Public Charter School Association.

Now leading the Food Bank, she and her team have launched several programs that close the loop between a food’s start and end—combining her family’s “whole hog” approach with her experience putting money to use. Among our many favorites is NH Feeding NH, a program inspired by similar work in Maine and Vermont that gives food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens, and other centers the funds to buy food directly from local farms. Although 2020 was a challenging year for many food banks, the NHFB successfully launched this program with 77 partners and 170 farms. In 2021, they’ve had even more success and, as Eileen puts it, she wants their partners to spend more “so [she] can give them more!”

We’re thrilled to work with farms, retailers, and other businesses that instantly come to mind when you think: “local food”. Yet partners like the NHFB who provide behind-the-scenes infrastructure are critical as we start making impact across the food system. In our first collaboration, we were thrilled to fund the new, 3,000 square foot mural painted by “Big Sam” Weinberger at the NHFB hub in Manchester, New Hampshire. Eileen calls it the extra “shot in the arm” we all needed.

Photography: Lucy Morin