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2017 Gala to End Hunger – NYC

We are both honored and humbled to be the recipients of the 2017 Alliance to End Hunger Partnership Award presented to us by Bread for the World and The Alliance to End Hunger at their annual Gala to End Hunger in New York City.

By our efforts at Preferred Brands International and more recently the Meera and Ashok Vasudevan Foundation, we remain committed to the idea of permanently moving people out of hunger and malnourishment in a manner that is sustainable, self-reliant, and healthy.  Until then, we are saving the big celebration for the day when the last food pantry in America closes – for lack of business!

The Event

The 2017 Gala to End Hunger
November 28th, 2017
The University Club – NYC

The night featured keynote address speaker David M. Beasley, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme,  guest speaker Kelvin Beachum, Jr. the offensive tackle of the New York Jets, and Bread for the World Ambassador, and remarks by Rev. David Beckmann President, Bread for the World and 2010 World Food Prize Laureate.

The Award

“My dream is to see a hunger free America because I refuse to accept that 1 in every 5 children misses dinner.

This is the wealthiest nation on earth, and yet every 7th American is hungry. This doesn’t make sense.”

“40 years ago our population was 220 million. 17 million were on Food Stamps. Today the population is 325 Million up 50% from 1977 but the SNAP participants are 45 million up 160%. Very simply: the hungry have grown 3 times faster than our population. Why?”

Gala Speech Transcripts

Meera Vasudevan’s Speech to the Gala:

Thank you very much!

Thank you Rebecca, David, the teams at Bread and Alliance for this incredible honor. We are truly humbled and grateful.

When Ashok and I set up our foundation, we were distressed by the statistics on hunger in America. But as we’ve gone deeper into the issue, we’re convinced this can be beat.

My dream is to see a hunger free America; I refuse to accept that 1 in every 5 kids misses dinner. This is the wealthiest nation on earth, and yet every 7th American is hungry. Doesn’t make sense.

All our combined efforts in this fight have made a big difference so far, and our ongoing efforts will continue to do so. I’ve no doubt about that. However, it looks like we’re not just fighting hunger, but also shadow boxing with our own government. Right here, right now, at home, we are under siege. It seems to me that Washington is in denial or worse, indifferent to the fact of hunger. And yet today we have 300 food banks servicing 60,000 food pantries across EVERY one of our 3000 counties. We have to shut this terrible infrastructure down!  

We probably need to begin by tackling the stultifying indifference. That is a huge first step to ending hunger. I’d love to see mayors in every town have a ribbon cutting ceremony whenever a pantry is closed. I’d love to see 800 Million Likes on Facebook when this happens. After all, that’s the number of Americans clicking Like on Facebook daily.

So, maybe it’s time for all of us to collaborate with the Alliance and Bread teams and conceive audacious and revolutionary ways to end the indifference. As the poet Robert Browning said: “A man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a Heaven for?

Ashok Vasudevan’s Speech to the Gala:

Good evening ladies & gentlemen,

Thank you for honoring both our company and our Foundation. Rebecca, David –and Max Finberg who is not here but is the responsible for introducing us – all of you mean a lot to us. More importantly, your work mean a whole lot to the 50 million Americans who are food insecure today and to whom we dedicate this and every evening till the “hungry American” is truly an oxymoron.

When is the last time we heard a Presidential debate address the issue of hunger? By the way, we don’t call them hungry in America. We call them food insecure. And we don’t say Food stamps. We call it SNAP. I’ll be using these terms interchangeably.

In 40 years our population has grown 50% from 220 million to 325 today, but SNAP participation has grown from 17 million to 45 million. Very simply: the hungry have grown 3 times faster than our population. Why? I’m reminded of the Most Reverend Hélder Câmara the Brazilian Roman Catholic Archbishop who famously remarked  “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.”

Meera mentioned hunger in all counties in the US. Let me go more granular. There are 43,000 zip codes in the US. From just a few hundred food programs in the ‘80s, there are more than 60,000 food pantries today. That’s more than 1 pantry per zip code.

Its true we have made tremendous progress. But it by increasing the supply side, more soup kitchens, pantries, food banks and food stamps. Not by reducing demand. The Government, the corporate sector and the Food Industry can each help solve this problem. Instead, each has hunger on their hands. Examples abound. I’ll just take one of each.

  • The US spent $7.2 trillion on the military in just the first decade of this century. Yet a staggering 620,000 military families on active duty are on food stamps. That’s 1 in 4 military families. And now we are hearing about a White House plan to cut $200 Billion dollars to the SNAP program.


Let’s talk about the corporate sector. For those of us who believe money follows the laws of gravity and trickles down – here is an idle computation I did a couple of years ago:

  • In 1990 US corporate profit after tax was $1 trillion. 25 years later it exceeded $7 trillion. Of course in such a wealthy society there should be no hunger if monetary policy was Newtonian! However, the SNAP roster grew 13 million in the same period.


Let me come closer home to the food industry. Big Food is the single largest beneficiary of the $11 Billion subsidy on Corn and Soybean. This makes empty calories cheaper but nutrients more expensive. Vegetable prices rose 25%-40% since the ‘80s while sodas and processed foods dropped 10-30%, exacerbating the problem of affordability and obesity. More than 50% of the workers in the US fast food industry are on food stamps!

World food production is 1½ times consumption. The problem is not availability but distribution, access and affordability. It can largely be solved in many countries including the US with government resolve and policy, capped by the stroke of the all too familiar photo op Presidential pen in the White House.

Berthold Brecht in his poem “dark times” wrote:

“However, they won’t say the times were dark
But, why were the poets silent?

So ladies and gentlemen, lets end this national silence, denial and indifference and ensure there’s Bread For The World and join hands in an Alliance To End Hunger.

Alone we cannot. Together, we can. Thank you.


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About Meera

Meera Vasudevan is Co-founder of Preferred Brands International, a Connecticut-based food company that makes Tasty Bite, a range of natural, ethnic food sold in major supermarkets around the world.

Meera also co-founded ASG-Omni a US and India based consulting firm involved in the design and execution of entry strategies for large US corporations looking to do business in India.

Meera began her career in market research at MARG (Marketing & Research Group), India. MARG is now part of the Nielsen group. After nearly a decade there, Meera co-founded India’s first specialist and largest qualitative research firm, Quantum Market Research. She worked on a number of entry strategies for global brands looking to enter the Indian market and on national social research projects for UNICEF.

She has served on some non-profit boards in the US, and is currently on the board of the United Way of Western Connecticut.

Meera has a Bachelors in English with post-graduate qualifications in Marketing from the University of Madras and INSEAD, France.


About Ashok

Ashok Vasudevan is Co-founder & CEO of Preferred Brands International, a Connecticut-based food company that makes Tasty Bite and a range of other natural, ethnic and specialty foods sold in major supermarkets globally.

Prior to Tasty Bite, Ashok headed the India desk of Pepsi World Trade in Somers, New York. He received Pepsi’s prestigious MVP award in 1991.

Before joining Pepsi, Ashok spent 10 years with Unilever in various functions that included Management Development, Sales & Marketing and International Business

He is involved in several non-profit organizations in India and the US including:

  • Director on the Board of The Fairfield County Business Council
  • Member of the Chairman’s Circle of the US-India Business Council,
  • Distinguished Visiting Professor of International Entrepreneurship and a member of the Business advisory Council of Great Lakes Institute of Management in Chennai, India.

Ashok Vasudevan graduated in Agricultural Sciences from Bangalore, and post graduate degrees at Bajaj Institute of Management in Bombay and the Harvard Business School.



About Anil

Dr. Nigam worked at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center for over three decades as Research Staff Member.  His research at IBM spanned a broad range of areas, including Parallel Processing Architectures and Database Machines, Artificial Intelligence and Qualitative Reasoning, and Operational Business Modeling and Business Design. Over his last decade at IBM, he worked extensively on conceiving, developing, practicing and evolving the “business artifact” approach to building Business Operation Models. The technique was used in a number of engagements with a range of businesses. At IBM he has received Research Division Awards, Research Commercialization Award, an IBM Consulting Group Engagement Excellence Award, a Technical Group Award and an Outstanding Technical Achievement Award. In 2007 he was named Master Inventor. He has published extensively in the areas listed above.

He holds a B Tech (Mechanical Engg) and M Tech (Computer Science) from IIT/Kanpur. Later he obtained MS  and PhD,  both in Computer Science, from University of Rochester, Rochester, NY. He worked as Research Assistant  (Computational Fluid Dynamics) at Imperial College, London.  He also worked as a systems analyst at Tata Consultancy Services, during the early years of the company.



About Chris

Chris Bruhl is the president and chief executive officer of The Business Council of Fairfield County, a private, non-profit corporation. The Business Council leads private sector involvement in developing public policy that promotes economic growth in Fairfield County and is the vehicle for a network of business leaders to work cooperatively to strengthen their enterprises and their communities. The organization has gained a national reputation for its work in transportation, education, workforce development, support for entrepreneurship and health care policy.

Mr. Bruhl has been a frequent consultant, writer, and speaker on the subjects of the relationship between education and economic competitiveness, leadership network development, economic issues and trends, and workforce development.  He serves on a variety of boards, commissions and advisory groups, including the Connecticut Institute for the 21st Century, Connecticut Planning Commission for Higher Education, Connecticut Campus Compact, Connecticut Convention and Sports Bureau, Connecticut Employment & Training Commission, the Sea Research Foundation’s President’s Council, and the Stamford Partnership.  He is an adjunct faculty member in the UConn School of Business MBA program and taught in a similar capacity at Manhattanville College, in New York.

He has represented the United States at Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and has addressed conferences presented by the national Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations, the U.S. Department of Labor, Arts for America, the National Association of State Land Grant Colleges and Universities, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, the Northeast Association of State Transportation Officials, Clean Air, Cool Planet (environmental policy advocates), the YMCAs of America, the Regional Plan Association (NY, NJ, CT); and higher education faculty convocations of Connecticut State University, the Connecticut Community College System, Housatonic Community College (Bridgeport), and Norwalk Community College. As a consultant, he has served clients in the public and private sectors throughout the United States.

Mr. Bruhl is a U.S. Army veteran, a contributing author to two books and was, for four years, the director of a national training program for non-profit board and staff, conducted in affiliation with faculty from Yale University. He holds a BA, in American Civilization, from Brown University, an MA, in English, from Louisiana State University, and an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business.  


About Kim

Kim Morgan is the Chief Executive Officer for United Way of Western Connecticut. With more than twenty five years experience working in the non-profit field, she has worked to improve the quality of life for those impacted by mental health and substance abuse issues, homelessness, and poverty. Kim has consulted with non-profits on outcome measurements, strategic planning and grant writing.

Kim has served on several boards including the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation, Christian Community Outreach Ministries and the New Fairfield Community Foundation, and currently serves on the board of the United Way of CT. She holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Management Communications.

She has been with United Way of Western Connecticut for the past eleven years. Kim is a native and current resident of New Fairfield, CT. She and her husband have 3 daughters. They served as licensed foster/adoptive parents for DCF for over 10 years.


About Supriya

Supriya Srinivasan is a scientist and professor at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA. Her lab is focused on finding answers to the following questions: How do we regulate our metabolism, and how does this impact how we age? To what extent do our genes, behavior and the environment influence the ability to defend metabolic homeostasis? What are the genes and molecules that underlie behavior and physiology over a lifetime?

Her lab studies these fundamental questions in neuroendocrine biology using the nematode C. elegans, in which the core functionality of these processes has been preserved. Using a simple model system allows her group to query biology across several orders of magnitude, from small molecules and neural circuit activity to the whole genome, and to discover the most important and ancient features of animal metabolism.

Supriya was raised in India and in Australia before coming to the US for graduate study, where she has remained ever since. She is deeply interested the biology of nutrition, metabolism and healthy aging in humans. She lives in San Diego with her husband and two children.


About Charles

Charles Hill is Executive Program Manager, Information Governance and Data Lake. In this role, Mr. Hill is responsible for implementing IBM’s internal Data Lake and Information Governance programs within the Chief Data Office.

Charles joined IBM in November 1978. Since then, he has held a variety of leadership positions in Sales, Marketing, Information Technology, Information Governance, Consulting and Business Transformation. Mr. Hill has extensive global experience, having lead teams in the US, India, Brazil, Germany, the UK, Australia, Japan and recently concluded a two year consulting engagement in China.

He has led many key projects for IBM, including leading the successful delivery of large, complex projects in information management, including customer information, product information, data integration, ERP deployments, data warehousing and service oriented architecture solutions across the entire enterprise (Sales & Marketing, Supply Chain, Fulfillment & Finance). He has effectively built and led global teams focused on driving business benefits leveraging business process and information technology.

Charles attended the University of Rochester, and participated in executive education programs at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, M.I.T., and the Harvard Business School.

Charles enjoys singing and traveling to different parts of the world learning about new cultures. Charlie currently resides in Stamford, CT USA with his wife and their 2 children.


About Saurav

Saurav Adhikari is responsible for driving corporate strategy at HCL (, and institutional development for the Shiv Nadar Foundation. HCL, established in 1976 is an original IT-garage start up turned into a $6.6 billion global technology enterprise.

Saurav brings over three decades of global strategic business insight to the role, from his diverse experience of leading global firms like Unilever, Pepsi and Group SEB in markets across North America, EMEA, APAC and India. His responsibilities include visioning and execution of HCL’s mid- to long-term business strategy, as well defining its corporate brand and communications positioning. In his 14-year career at HCL, Saurav has been responsible for building valuable relationships with consulting majors, private equity funds, investment banks, partners and customers that have had significant revenue and profit impact for HCL.

More recently, Saurav has also been helping conceptualize and build up Shiv Nadar Foundation’s landmark institutions. The Foundation is one of India’s largest philanthropic institutions focused on empowering individuals to bridge the socio-economic divide, through transformational education, creativity and art.

Saurav spearheads the Foundation’s partnerships with some of the world’s premier educational institutions including the Carnegie Mellon University, Duke University, University of Pennsylvania and Babson.

Saurav was earlier President – North America for HCL BPO and was based in Stamford CT, USA from 2002- 2005, after having joined HCL in January 2000 as the President of an enterprise networking startup company.

Saurav schooled at Mayo College, Ajmer in Rajasthan. He earned his B.A. in Economics from Hindu College, Delhi University, an MBA from JBIMS, Bombay University and an AMP from INSEAD Fontainebleau, France. Saurav has a passion for integrating strategic and creative thinking processes into delivering business impact. He enjoys writing, eclectic reading, traveling and fitness.


About Ramu

Ramu is a General Partner at A.Capital Ventures where he heads the enterprise software investing practice. Founded in 2014, A. Capital Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm based in Menlo Park, CA.

Prior to A.Capital Ventures, Ramu was a Partner at Andreessen Horowitz where he worked on over a dozen investments in the enterprise software space. In addition, he helped shape the firm’s investment thesis in Cloud infrastructure and Big Data. Past investments include Instart Logic, Databricks, Mesosphere and Actifio.

A computer scientist by training, Ramu has over a decade of operating experience in product management and engineering at both startups and public companies. Prior to Andreessen Horowitz, Ramu led new product initiatives in Big Data for Aster Data (acquired by Teradata). Earlier in his career, Ramu was an engineer at VMware where his team developed the industry’s first virtual switch for VMware’s flagship server product line.

Ramu holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, an MS in Computer Science from the University of Maryland and a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering (with University Honors) from Carnegie Mellon University.


About Bob

I started off at SoundView Technology Group, a boutique investment bank specializing in high tech stocks that was located in Stamford, CT.  I was a Vice President on the Syndicate Desk and in my tenure we raised over 26 Billion in new capital for our clients. After the internet bubble collapse and SoundView was no more, I moved to Wachovia Securities and headed branch operations for their Greenwich office which was later downsized during a restructuring.  After that I was called back to work for Wells Fargo Advisors, which had bought Wachovia Securites during the financial crisis of 2008 and worked on a compliance team that would oversee 220 brokers in CT and NY.    

During that time, the local food bank knew me by name, since each year I would fund raise among friends and family and make an annual cash donation for the needy. It was important for me to share, since I and my friends had been fortunate, and as the saying goes “there but for the grace of God go I.” That phrase is more timely today than it has ever been.  

I am very fortunate to be able to work for the MAV Foundation at this point in my life. After almost 20 years in finance, with a job description amounting to “Make the rich, richer” I reached a point where it’s not about enriching your own net worth, but enriching the lives of others. We will certainly do that and more at MAVF.


About Byron

Byron is the CEO of the Center for Board Excellence and is architect of CBE’s unique board and CEO evaluation platform, including the trademarked Board Excellence Assessment.

Prior to CBE, Byron was CEO at Select Homes, Inc., from 1998 to 2009, and an investment manager at AIG-VALIC from 1989 to 1998. Byron has held board positions at Select Homes, Inc., Arkosian Software, Greensboro Soccer Club, Guilford County PTA, and Greensboro Downtown Parks, Inc.

Byron is a graduate of James Madison University (BA) and Harvard Business School (OPM). Byron lives in Greensboro, NC with his wife. He has four adult children and two grandsons. When he is not working, he enjoys skiing, golf, traveling, cooking and studying wine.