Future Landscape of Eradicating Hunger
Jason Serrano ’97 remembers vividly receiving a box of Cheerios as a 10 year old from a volunteer of a nearby church at a time when his family needed the food.
“I couldn’t understand why she was helping our family,” he said. “That was very curious to me—why would somebody just do that? It wasn’t the food that mattered the most to me, it was that somebody cared. That was something that has always stuck with me.”
So, when Hurricane Sandy hit New York City in fall 2012, he saw an opportunity to help others in the way that he had been helped. He and his wife, Aleta, helped fund a new start-up feeding program in New York City named Feed New York, which provided local feeding agencies such as churches and homeless shelters adequate food supplies. For seven years, the couple purchased and distributed approximately $1.8 million of food.
In 2020, the Serranos partnered with the Midwest Food Bank, the second largest independent food bank in the United States, to significantly grow the feeding program with the opening of a new division located in Harrisburg, Pa. Through the first quarter of this year, the Midwest Food Bank of Pennsylvania recovered over $2 million of food from farms and food producers and distributed it to neighboring feeding programs.
Next year, Jason said he is looking to grow the non-for-profit activities 10-fold so that they can distribute approximately $35 million worth of food at no cost to churches and community agencies throughout the northeast. He also hopes to double the size of the warehouse.
Aleta oversees the day-to-day operations as president of the division’s Board of Directors, as Jason’s full-time job is president and director of New York Mortgage Trust Inc., a publicly traded company with $3 billion worth of investments on its balance sheet.
“We buy real estate-related assets across the U.S. and need to distribute attractive returns to our shareholders as dividends,” Jason said. “So, it’s quite a task to make sure this company is run well.”
He said his four years at Oswego taught him a lot about time management, effective studying techniques and applying himself, including as a member of the men’s rugby team. He also forged extraordinary friendships that he maintains during at least weekly phone calls and outreach.
“The faculty were fantastic and they cared that I understood,” he said. “They weren’t there to just teach. They wanted to make sure I was learning.”
One class project stands out to Jason from his time at Oswego as being instrumental in his career and life path.
He and his roommate interviewed a business owner who ran several nursing homes and who was able to successfully combine concern for and feedback from his clientele with successful business practices.
“He went the extra mile in the care that he provided, and he wasn’t just trying to make an extra dollar,” Jason said. “I
thought it would be cool to have a job where you’re successfully doing two things at the same time. I’ve strived for a career where I can join those two things together: making a positive impact and being successful financially.”