Food Bank Chief is 2021 State Senate ‘Woman of Distinction’


Office of New York State Senator Tom O’Mara

ELMIRA – State Senator Tom O’Mara (R, C, I-Big Flats) has announced that Natasha Thompson, President and CEO of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, will be honored as a member of the New York State Senate in 2021 “Woman of Distinction.

Thompson will represent the 58th Senate District of O’Mara at the 23rd annual Senate Women of Distinction Celebration and will join more than 60 other laureates representing the Senate Districts of New York State.

The annual Senate recognition program, which began in March to coincide with Women’s History Month, allows senators from across the state to select a laureate from their respective legislative constituencies to celebrate for their significant achievements, their services and their contributions to the quality of life within and beyond their communities. Prior to COVID-19, winners were recognized at an in-person awards ceremony and reception at the Legislative Office Building in Albany. Last year, the Senate honored its “Women of Distinction” with a virtual tribute.

The 2021 “Women of Distinction” were also to be honored virtually on Thursday, August 26, to coincide with Women’s Equality Day, with the virtual tribute available to the public that day on the Senate’s website. O’Mara,

O’Mara said, “Natasha Thompson represents a remarkable commitment to our communities which marks her recognition this year as a New York State ‘Woman of Distinction’. For more than two decades, she has remained dedicated to her lifelong work serving those in need throughout the Third South region and I am proud to pay this tribute to her contributions as a tireless leader and activist. Natasha’s optimism, selflessness, and unwavering faith in the food bank’s mission have always stood out for many of us, but her leadership in guiding the food bank’s work throughout the COVID-pandemic. 19 has been an inspiring lifeline and an undeniable basis of hope for residents and families in this region. I am truly happy this year, on behalf of the 58th Senate District, to be able to pay this well-deserved and well-deserved tribute of appreciation, gratitude and respect. Thanks Natacha.

Thompson has been with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier since 2001 and has served in her current role as President and CEO since 2008. She began her career as an Americorps * VISTA volunteer at the Rhode Island Community Food Bank in 1997.

Under Thompson’s leadership, the food bank was recognized in 2017 with the prestigious Feeding America “Food Bank of the Year” award.

In 2020, the Food Bank of the Southern Tier saw an unprecedented increase in demand for food due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many food banks across the country, Thompson has had to completely alter the entire Southern Tier operations to quickly meet the rapidly changing needs of the community while ensuring the safety of staff, volunteers and clients. Thompson helped his team successfully overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic. The Southern Tier Food Bank ended the year with a record 17.6 million pounds of food distribution, a 40% increase from 2019.

Thompson has worked with countless people across the Southern Region who are committed to helping their neighbors and strengthening their communities. Since 2018, she has hosted Chasing the Dream, a local public affairs show on WSKG-TV that highlights stories of individuals and organizations working to make a difference.

Thompson holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Religion and an MBA, both from the University of Rochester. She was President of Feeding New York State from 2016 to 2018 and was a member of the National Council of Food Banks of Feeding America, representing the Eastern Region, from 2012 to 2016. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation of Tompkins County.

Past winners of O’Mara’s “Women of Distinction” have been:

• 2011, Carol Berry of Hornell, a longtime regional library professional and director of the Dormann Library in Bath;

• 2012, Virginia “Ginny” Houseknecht of Watkins Glen, longtime educator and leader of Cornell Cooperative Extension, and founder of Southern Tier Parkinson’s Disease Support Group;

• 2013, Beverly “Bev” Stamp, co-owner and operator of Lakewood Vineyards in Watkins Glen, longtime and beloved ambassador of New York State’s nationally and internationally renowned wine and grape industry;

• 2014, Lauren Snyder, a public health professional from Penn Yan who served as Yates County Public Health Director for 28 years before retiring in 2009;

• 2015, Linda Thomas, owner and operator of Wellsburg Diner and recipient of a prestigious “Small Business Excellence Award” from the US Small Business Administration;

• 2016, Dawn R. Smith, Transition and Care Management (TCM) program manager at Bath VA Medical Center and well-known local veterans advocate;

• 2017, Carmella Hoffmann, owner and operator of Sunset View Creamery in Odessa (Schuyler County);

• 2018, Kathryn J. Boor, originally from Chemung County and Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Cornell University; and

• 2019, Pauline “Polly” Holbrook, a longtime civic mainstay in the town of Hornell and the Canisteo Valley.


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