Honoring Joanne Barkett Conway's legacy through a ‘transformational’ gift to address hunger - Capital Area Food Bank
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Honoring Joanne Barkett Conway’s legacy through a ‘transformational’ gift to address hunger

By cafb March 5, 2024

Joanne Barkett Conway focused much of her own life on improving the lives of others. That work has left a lasting legacy that now, thanks to a significant new gift from her husband William “Bill” Conway, Jr., will only grow larger.

William “Bill” Conway, Jr. has committed $10 million to the food bank to address regional food insecurity through one of his philanthropic vehicles, the Bedford Falls Foundation DAF. The gift is a multi-year investment that honors his late wife’s dedication to helping kids, families, and other individuals through her philanthropic leadership.

The new funding will support a range of programs across the food bank, including the purchase of fresh produce; work that supplies critical nutrition to children; and initiatives that provide nutritious groceries to college students facing hunger.

“Joanne was passionate about helping those in need improve their lives,” Conway said. “I can think of no better way to honor her memory and to carry on her legacy of compassion than by supporting the Capital Area Food Bank in helping those facing food insecurity.”

The largest gift from a donor in the Capital Area Food Bank’s history, it is the latest among a series of investments made by the Conways to the food bank during the last decade, which total $23 million.

Their support of those facing food insecurity has included a $5 million foundation grant in 2010 that enabled the food bank to begin construction of a new 123,000-square-foot facility that bears the name of their Bedford Falls Foundation. The facility in Northeast Washington is CAFB’s main warehouse in the region, and its construction allowed the food bank to double its capacity at a time when need was rising in the region.

In 2011, the couple’s support of CAFB’s Fresh Produce Campaign helped enable the food bank to continue offering fresh fruits and vegetables to its nonprofit partners at no cost, ensuring those foods would remain readily available for people in need. Produce, which made up nearly half of the food CAFB provided last year, is an important part of a healthy diet but can be cost prohibitive for those with limited budgets.

The new investment will provide significant support for the purchase and distribution of nutritious foods, including enabling the food bank to continue its emphasis on offering fresh fruit and vegetables.

Funds will also be directed towards the food bank’s “Food Plus Education” initiatives, which supply groceries and meals to college students who may be struggling to put food on the table. In keeping with Joanne’s passion for empowering individuals with the skills and opportunities needed to find fulfilling employment, the gift will focus in particular on assisting students in fields where demand for jobs is high, such as nursing programs and information technology.

Additionally, the gift will be used to support the food bank’s programs focused on meeting the dietary needs of children.

“This is an absolutely transformational level of generosity,” said Radha Muthiah, president and CEO of the Capital Area Food Bank. “This gift will enable greater health and greater opportunity for thousands of our neighbors, and is such a fitting tribute to Joanne’s remarkable vision and legacy. We’re honored and humbled by what these funds will make possible, particularly at a moment when need remains greatly elevated across our region.