Beginning next month, District nonprofit Martha’s Table will have a new chief executive: Kim R. Ford, a former Obama administration official who unsuccessfully challenged D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton for the Democratic nomination last year.
Ford said after years of coordinating efforts with the U.S. Education Department, the position feels like coming home. A native Washingtonian who grew up in the Ward 4 neighborhood of Shepherd Park, Ford, 38, has a history with Martha’s Table dating to the mid-1990s, when she, then in middle school, volunteered in the kitchen.
She prepped meals and chopped vegetables. It was more than her own mother could get her to do in the kitchen, she said.
Now, more than 20 years later, she will return April 1 to the D.C. food pantry and family-services organization in a considerably higher-profile position — running a charity with a $12 million budget and about 100 employees.
“This is so surreal. I’ve known Martha’s Table my entire life,” Ford said in an interview Monday. “I volunteered with them when I was in middle school and upper school. To come and be part of the team is so surreal, so amazing.”
Ford will replace outgoing chief executive Patty Stonesifer, 62, who announced her retirement last year after more than six years with the organization.
Stonesifer, a former head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and one of the highest-ranking women at Microsoft, oversaw transformations that Ford said will thrust Martha’s Table into the future while serving the District’s most vulnerable residents.
Stonesifer oversaw the implementation of 53 “Joyful Food Markets,” free markets that pop up monthly in schools throughout Wards 7 and 8 that provide fresh produce to D.C. residents in food deserts, and the relocation of Martha’s Table’s headquarters to Anacostia.
The changes will allow the charity to reach residents where they live and provide for the District’s neediest families, Ford said. She said her background in education will guide her as she seeks to increase the organization’s number of early-childhood-education programs by 40 percent.
“I am personally thrilled to have Kim join us as the next leader of Martha’s Table,” Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, who sits on the Martha’s Table board of directors and serves as the dean of the School of Education at American University, said in a news release. “Her impressive background in education and focus on lifelong learning will elevate our mission to ensure all children in D.C. have the opportunity for their brightest future.”
Ford joined the Obama administration in 2009 to help implement the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and 18 months later led neighborhood revitalization efforts around the St. Elizabeths Hospital grounds, where the new Department of Homeland Security headquarters was established.
Frustrated by regulations that she said shut out D.C. residents from jobs there, Ford accepted a job at the University of the District of Columbia, where she eventually was put in charge of workforce development.
Five years later, she led an Education Department office charged with overseeing adult education, community colleges and adult, career and technical education. She quit in November 2017 to challenge Norton after watching development of the Wharf and, again, being disappointed by the lack of local workers and businesses who were a part of that process.
“When I ran, I ran on an education and workforce platform,” Ford said. “So, going to this amazing organization where education is at the core of all the things they do — I’m all in.”
In her new role, Ford said, she will direct Martha’s Table to go “deeper” into communities and help offset pressures of a rapidly changing and gentrifying city.
“We’re running against time to make sure the community can be positively impacted by the change we’re seeing in D.C. and can stay in D.C.,” Ford said. “We want people to have opportunities.”