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2024 Leadership Award Winner for Emerging Leader: Anna Hammond, Matriark Foods

Anna Hammond Headshot

After a 35-year career working in the art world and for nonprofit organizations, Anna Hammond embarked on a for-profit journey with a not-for-profit mission.

“We live in a world of food abundance yet 30 percent or more of that food goes to waste,” said the 62-year-old Hammond, CEO of Matriark Foods, New York City. “People have diet-related illnesses due to improper nutrition. We need to change the system so everybody has access to healthy, nutritious food.”

As executive director of The Sylvia Center from 2011 to 2018, Hammond developed an appreciation of how fresh fruits and vegetables and the skill to prepare them can transform a community. One of the Sylvia Center’s most successful programs involves bringing students from The Bronx and poor neighborhoods in the Hudson Valley to its farm in Columbia County, New York. There, they harvest fruits and vegetables and also prepare a meal to be enjoyed with others. The students return to their communities as ambassadors of nutritious eating.

“Fresh vegetables are wonderful but not everybody has access,” said Hammond. Her concept: To purchase remnants from large food processors and imperfect fruits and vegetables from farms and transform them into healthy and accessible food.

Matriark started with a USDA grant to do R&D at the Fork Food Lab in Portland, Maine. Working with small and mid-size farmers, she brought in surplus from the farms—and paid for it. “It’s a game-changing partnership when you can help farmers and also make a nutritious product,” she said. Matriark prides itself on having set up a business system that works from the farmer through the manufacturer through the consumer.

Founded in 2018, Matriark has eight SKUs, including pasta sauces, vegetable broth concentrates, and vegetable stews. It follows six basic tenets:

1. Delicious is obvious. Climate-friendly food preserves the harvest at its freshest. Take care to make it delicious and respect the hard work of all farmers.

2. Everything is valuable. Don’t waste anything. It’s all good for something.

3. Make a better system. Systems should work for all people.

4. Tell the real story. Doing better starts with being honest. Let people know the facts.

5. Be useful. Every choice we make has the potential to help people.

6. Create a path to follow. New ideas are for everybody. Help others adopt and use them. Then think up some more.

The company is a founding member of the Upcycled Food Association and is Upcycled Certified. It was also selected for the 2021 cohort of The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger/Zero Waste Foundation Innovation Fund and received an impact investment of $250,000.

In contrast to many newer companies, 64 percent of Matriark’s sales are through foodservice and to food banks. Hammond said, “Consumers get a lot of food through school systems, health care facilities, food banks, and others that provide food outside of the home. Most of these providers want to serve nutritious food and have a challenge finding it at a reasonable cost. We can provide that.”

Matriark sells its products in 20- and 40-pound bags, 400-pound drums, and 18-ounce cartons of concentrate, all ideal for foodservice operators. All production is done through co-packers.

The goal: To be a global food company. “It takes volume to make a big impact on both hunger and the environment. That is what we want to accomplish,” concluded Hammond.

Related: 2024 Leadership Award Winner for Citizenship: Phil Meldrum, FoodMatch2024 Leadership Award Winner for Vision: Diego Silva, Avatar Natural Foods