Dynamic, experienced, focused, and filled with passion for helping the people served by Stop Foodborne Illness—these qualities describe our remarkable new CEO, Mitzi Baum.
In May 2019, Mitzi took the helm at STOP and immediately began making positive contributions while spreading her enthusiastic energy, which has sparked exciting change and fired up our supporters, staff, and partners.
To learn more about this lively lady who’s leading STOP, we invite you to dive into our Q & A below. You’ll learn what first inspired Mitzi to make food safety her focus, what her plans are in year one, and what she’d love for YOU to do today to join with her in making STOP the most effective and helpful food safety organization in the world.
A: My early career was working in restaurants. I became focused on food safety because I never wanted a restaurant I was associated with to have an outbreak or be the cause of people suffering from tainted food. Food safety became a true passion for me.
In 1996, I transitioned to working at Feeding America as a compliance auditor where I conducted audits of food banks across the United States. I was recruited to lead their food safety team in 2009. My intense interest in food safety fueled my work—especially considering I was part of a team serving over 49 million Americans affected by food insecurity.
In 2015, I went back to school and earned my Masters of Science in Food Safety from Michigan State University because I wanted to provide strong leadership with authority and vision. This education provided me with a solid foundation to build successful organizational programs for Feeding America and to network externally with a wide range of food safety professionals.
Earlier in 2019 when I learned of STOP’s search for a new CEO, I became intrigued by their focus on preventing illness and death due to contaminated food for every person. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to not only continue being an advocate for food safety but to also employ the leadership skills I had developed in my 23-year career at Feeding America.
A: The fact that foodborne illness is PREVENTABLE.
There are small, basic things every person can do—like washing their hands with soap and water before and after handling food—that can make all the difference in preventing illness from contaminated food.
With that in mind, I feel really good about doing everything I can to inspire more people to develop those basic habits so that, together, safe food handling can be “just the way we do things.”
A: I’m happy to share we’ve accomplished a lot since I arrived in May! One significant thing is the retooling of our mission statement: To support and engage people directly impacted by foodborne illness and mobilize them to help prevent illness and death by driving change through advocacy, collaboration and innovation. This will better position Stop Foodborne Illness for the future. And, with our revised mission, we’ll concentrate on three pillars of work during my first year and beyond:
Constituent Services is a structured program consisting of identifying people who have or have had foodborne illness; assisting those in crisis; engaging people to participate with STOP; activating people as constituents; and retaining constituents.
Food Safety Policy is a continued focus for STOP, which includes participating in advocacy efforts at the national level to promote meaningful and impactful legislation to create a safer food supply chain.
Public Health is a new focus area for STOP. We will target and leverage advocacy opportunities for early detection and preventive measures around foodborne illness.
There’s a lot of work for us to accomplish, but STOP’s supporters can be sure of one thing—I will put my heart and soul into our work. I am energized around bringing extraordinary success to our newly-created focus areas.
A: The creation of a new fundraising strategy is in the works. Two key areas for funding growth will be support from foundations with similar missions and individual giving. Corporate support also plays a role with our Alliance to Stop Foodborne Illness program. Our aim is to create robust and sustainable funding streams of donors who are invested in and care about our food safety work.
To our friends reading this, I want you to know it is truly a CRITICAL time for STOP. We need significant funding right now to pay for daily costs of operation, build capacity, help victims, lay a solid foundation, and achieve our goals.
The good news?
I have absolute confidence we can do it together!
By making a generous donation right now on our website or sending a check by mail, you can help us meet our goals. Any amount you’re inspired to give will help us greatly! Click here to make your donation.
A: There are many more meaningful ways to help us—you can share this article with all of your friends, talk about Stop Foodborne Illness and the work we do, and email Stanley Rutledge, Director of Constituent Services, at email@example.com to volunteer.
On behalf of those we serve, THANK YOU so much for being a part of our food safety family at STOP!
Mitzi Baum began her role as CEO of Stop Foodborne Illness in May 2019. As CEO, Mitzi is responsible for leading and growing the organization to expand its impact of preventing foodborne illness in the United States and around the world. Prior to joining Stop, she spent 23 years at Feeding America leading their food safety advocacy work, developing programs, and assisting people affected by food insecurity. Mitzi lives in Chicago with her husband, 10-year-old daughter, and their dog. When she’s not working, Mitzi enjoys coaching her daughter’s softball team, Crossfit, yoga, reading, spending time with family and friends, cooking, and traveling.