I recently connected to an old high school classmate, Steve Dietz, on LinkedIn. The other day I got one of those notices about a work anniversary. I discovered Steve works for an extraordinary company, Food Donation Connection. The company matches up restaurants and food vendors with charitable organizations helping hungry people. It’s a wonderful idea. Did you know that most leftover food is thrown in landfills or dumpsters? Tons of food go to waste every day, while people go hungry. The company has a massive outreach, although there are only 40 employees.
According to a fascinating article about the company - Farragut Company Coordinates Millions of Pounds of Food Donations - “Last year, 13,880 businesses donated 35 million pounds of food to 7,908 agencies.”
How does the company coordinate everything? From their website:
Food Donation Connection administers these programs through the use of an efficient communication and reporting network. Program responsibilities include linking donor locations with food rescue groups or those feeding the needy, assisting in the development of product quality and handling standards, tax valuation, donation reporting and ongoing monitoring and follow-up to ensure program implementation and growth.
Food Donation Connection does not compete with non-profits for the limited funding that is currently available from government and private sources. Instead, our funding comes from a small portion of our donor partners incremental tax savings that is earned from properly saving and donating their surplus food. In exchange for this funding, we coordinate all aspects of our donor partner’s food donation programs.
Here in Atlanta many agencies benefit from Food Donation Connection. For instance: “TheAtlanta Community Food Bank – we know them very well.”
Steve and I talked about the well-known places that are big donors, like the Darden Group of restaurants. “Every Olive Garden and Red Lobster donates.”
Steve is very proud of his company. “Last year Regions Bank named us business of the year.”
I admire the fact that Steve’s company is filling such a critical need. In a country as rich as America, nobody should go hungry.
Steve has had a varied and active career, but he now lives just north of Atlanta, in Canton. His company is headquartered in Knoxville. “My wife is president of Reinhardt University. We love North Georgia. It’s so much like East Tennessee.” (Gentle rolling mountains)
Steve and I had a nice chat about Reinhardt University, which has a connection to my family. (My mom’s maiden name was Hasty – there are Hastys all over the Canton area, and they are all my relatives!) I have a distant cousin, attorney Billy Hasty, who is on the Board of Trustees and who has been a generous donor to Reinhardt. (The Student Life Center is actually called The Hasty Student Life Center.)
Although North Georgia is home now, Steve and his wife still have a lake house in the East Tennessee area, and he says “I’m usually up there once a month or so, for an event or something.” His son lives in Knoxville.
I enjoyed catching up with Steve, and he was generous with his time. Here are his answers to my standard Twenty Questions:
What is your full name?
Stephen Putnam Dietz. My middle name is from an ancestor who was a famous general in civil war.
Where would you live, if you could live anywhere in the world?
Where I live now, North Georgia. I love the topography – our campus is 525 acres and has 2 small lakes. I love the trees and mountains. [His wife Kina Mallard is president of Rhinehart University].
What is your favorite movie and why?
Up – the Pixar movie it’s good feel good movie.
What was your least-favorite subject in school when you were a kid?
What was your nickname when you were a kid?
Didn’t have one.
Do you believe in God?
What sound or noise do you love?
If you could do anything other than what you do, as a profession, what would it be?
Probably work for nonprofits.
If heaven exists, what do you think it is like?
I do believe it exists; it’s pure peace and tranquility.
Do you have siblings?
Tom Dietz, 2 years older.
What is your favorite memory of childhood [something specific]?
Swimming on the Crestwood Hills swim team. [Note: I swam for Gulf Park and Crestwood Hills was our big rival.]
If you had to choose between one week traveling around the USA by car, or one week traveling around Europe on a train, which would you choose and why?
I have not seen a lot of Europe. I like the off the beaten path view of the world. In fact we are looking to plan a rail trip next year. I’d like to visit Italy, Germany, and Amsterdam.
What inspires you?
People that genuinely give of themselves to help others with no expectations of anything in return.
Which holiday do you prefer, Christmas or July 4th?
What project or idea are you most passionate about, right now?
Getting in to know the people of North Georgia. Typically we have 1-2 functions 7 nights a week. I’ve committed a ton to it. I am expected to be at functions and entertain people. [Since his wife is president of Reinhardt University and they live on the campus.] We both love that.
Before I met my wife I was not involved with kids at all but now that we live here and I know lots of students I am going to tell you, there’s a lot of hope out there, so that’s a good thing. There’s so much good and we live in it. At graduation we were sad, because we knew so many of the students and they were like our kids.
Do you know how to cook? Absolutely I’ve always cooked since I was about 10 years old.
What is your favorite thing to cook/eat? Smoking meat, brisket; I’ve got a really good smoker.
If you could go on vacation anywhere in the world, for 2-4 weeks, all expenses paid, where would you go and why?
I would love to go to Italy – the culture, history and food.
Who do you love the most in the world?
My wife and kids.
What question has nobody ever asked you, but you wanted to answer? [he couldn’t think of one]