Minneapolis, MN — Omar Guevara Soto imagines a community where food is readily available to every family at home and in school. A leader in culinary services in Minneapolis Public Schools, he has helped mobilize a revolution in school food over the past decade. He is deeply committed to making fresh food accessible to students but also understands that the complex economic and psychological realities of families outside of school must be addressed if true food security is to be achieved. He wants to engage families, schools, multinational food corporations, nonprofits, funders, and faith communities to create policies and transform systems so no person goes hungry. To leverage his experience and lead change, Omar will learn from public and social sector leaders who are successfully addressing barriers that cause hunger. He will also explore further training in entrepreneurship and leadership.
What has informed your approach to leading change in your community?
My childhood has informed my approach to leading change. I grew up in Puebla, Mexico, where my grandmother owned and operated a family restaurant. I was 14 years old when my grandmother died, soon after my father left us, and my family’s financial situation drastically changed. I quickly learned first-hand the challenges of food insecurity. I moved to Minnesota 25 years ago, where I received a great culinary education and learned about food procurement and restaurant operations. I also had the great fortune to meet amazing people who are passionate about our community and specifically its children. When I started working for Minneapolis Public Schools, I realized that I had joined an amazing team whose mission is to improve our food systems and encourage future generations to adopt better food habits. At that point, my values got shaken and reordered. As a result, I am highly motivated to figure this out.
Who has had the most impact on your leadership journey and why?
I can't name just one person. I've fortunate to have worked with many inspirational colleagues from my restaurant career to my current position with Minneapolis Public Schools.
What is your favorite quote or expression?
Instead of a quote, I am driven by inclusivity. I regularly ask myself and my colleagues: Do we have the right people at the table to make truly impactful change? Too often, those communities we intend to serve are absent from the decision-making process.