Page 8 - BusinessWest 40 Under Forty 2024
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Kara Bombard
Marketing Manager, Performance Foodservice: Age 38
       The restaurant life is a tough one. Kara Bombard wants to make it a little easier.
“It’s a very hard industry,” said Bombard, marketing manager at the Springfield location of Performance Foodservice, a national company that supplies products, technology, and custom solutions to culinary businesses. “The life of a restaurateur is a busy one. If you’re not working on the line, you’re in the back doing paperwork or orders, making sure everything is running. Anything we can do to take anything off their plate is considered a wonderful thing for them.”
Among Bombard’s many roles, she executes a strategic partner program across more than 400 local and national food suppliers, and also manages biannual food shows that bring more than 1,800 attendees to the Greater Springfield area.
“We take over places like the MassMutual Center
or the Better Living Center, with ceiling-to-floor food,” she explained. “You can come in and eat lunch as we showcase everything from the highest-end cuts of meat to oysters to chicken tenders and fries. You can sample anything.”
In addition, Bombard has developed a communication and content strategy to provide culinary inspiration
on trends and new product ideas to local and regional restaurateurs, collaborating with a team of culinary specialists to develop new ideas for menus, providing tools to help restaurants improve their profitability and food costing, waste management, server training, and overall operations.
She also supports her company’s diversity, inclusion, and belonging business strategy by serving as chair
of communications on the Women of PFG Associate
Lev BenEzra
Executive Director, Amherst Survival Center: Age 39
The levels of food insecurity in this region rose dramatically during the pandemic, Lev BenEzra notes, and they continue to rise, for several reasons — from inflation, and the enormous toll it takes on families’ budgets, to the curtailment of many COVID-inspired relief initiatives.
BenEzra’s determined and imaginative efforts to tackle this critical issue certainly help to explain why she is not only a Forty Under 40 honoree, but why she tied for the highest score among the class of 2024.
In short, she has provided the leadership and vision needed to not only see the Amherst Survival Center through the upheaval of the pandemic, when it had to meet soaring needs and find new and different ways to do things, but chart a course for the next several years through strategic planning and anticipation of future challenges.
In doing so, she is continuing a two-decade- long track record of working for nonprofits, dating back to when she served as an academic coordinator for Girls Inc. of the Valley and
then a curriculum specialist for the Hasbro Summer Learning Initiative in Springfield.
Later, she spent more than a decade with Community Action Pioneer Valley in Greenfield, first as program manager of Youth Programs and then as director of Youth and Workforce
Resource Group.
Meanwhile, Bombard has found another way to
connect with the business community: as president of the Young Professional Society of
Greater Springfield (YPS).
“That has been a wonderful experience,” she said. “It’s been great to put down my roots and expand my relationships and get to know a lot of people in different industries.”
As YPS marks 15 years, Bombard has been impressed with its evolution and the resilience of its members through challenges from the Great Recession to the pandemic, and gratified to see its collaborations and networking events grow.
“If you’re a professional starting out, it’s a great way to introduce yourself to so many people and so many industries represented within our group,” she added. “If
I could go back to my 20s and talk to myself, I would tell myself to get involved in something like this much earlier in my career. It’s allowed me to make relationships with so many leaders in the area, and it’s been a blessing to build those relationships.” BW
—Joseph Bednar
Development, before coming to the Amherst Survival Center just months before the pandemic arrived, bringing challenge, but also opportunity, with it.
“There is something about a crisis that clarifies what it is that you’re supposed to be doing or what is truly important,” she said. “And I think that was very true, especially in the early days of leadership at the Survival Center; we provide a daily, essential service to people and, thus, did not have the option of closing or limiting access to our programs.”
During her tenure, BenEzra and her team have doubled the agency’s annual revenue; launched a successful grocery-delivery program; improved access for people from all cultures and backgrounds, while also increasing availability of food to meet different dietary needs and cultural styles of cooking; and spearheaded major HR improvements to better support the staff.
Active in the community, she is also a board member of the Community Health Center of Franklin County and has served Franklin County Pride, the Communities that Care Coalition,
the Strategic Planning Initiative for Families & Youth, and the Regional Employment Board Youth Career Connections Council, among other nonprofits. BW
—George O’Brien
   A8 2024
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