Catherine D’Amato has been in the food industry since the age of 8 when her Italian-immigrant father opened a restaurant in Redding, California. A tireless advocate for the hungry for more than 38 years, D’Amato assumed the leadership of The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) in 1995.
Under her guidance, GBFB’s food distribution has increased from the equivalent of 7.5 million meals to more than 50 million healthy meals annually. Today, GBFB is a $95 million charitable business with a network of 526 member food pantries, meal programs and shelters across Eastern Massachusetts, serving more than 140,000 people every month.
D’Amato believes food is a basic human right, and no one should ever go hungry. This drives her vision for GBFB, and frames her message to government, business and community leaders.
“Hunger can be solved,” she says. “It will take social and political will, greater awareness and sustainable resources.”
Under D’Amato’s guidance, GBFB has focused not only providing nutritious food to those struggling with hunger, but making the critical connection between hunger and health. Medical studies report that food-insecure adults and children are sicker than those who have enough to eat every day. In 2016, GBFB became the first food bank in the U.S. to hire a medical doctor and now partners with nine community health centers to screen patients for food insecurity and provide healthy food to food-insecure families. D’Amato also led GBFB’s partnership with Children’s HealthWatch, a nonpartisan research organization, to undertake groundbreaking research on the health-related costs of hunger and food insecurity in Massachusetts. The study’s findings totaled $2.4 billion in health-related costs in 2016 alone.
“With our member hunger-relief agencies already working beyond their capacity to meet the region’s hunger problem,” says D’Amato. “GBFB is expanding its collaboration with public and private partners to provide healthy food to those in need.”
D’Amato currently serves on the board of trustees of Fidelity Charitable and Eastern Bank; the board of directors of the Forsyth Institute and the Massachusetts Food Association; and as co-chair of the Boston Foundation Equality Fund.
She is a former board member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and Basic Health International and an emeriti board member of the Boston Foundation and Feeding America. D’Amato is also a guest lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and other area universities.
D’Amato earned a bachelor’s degree in theology from the University of San Francisco and business management certificates from Harvard University and Smith College.