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Spotlighting A 14 WORKING TO


FEED AMERICA Andrea Leigh Yao BY PATRICK FOLLIARD


When asked the standard “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” attorney Andrea Yao hesitates to answer. Yes, she is extremely enthusi- astic about her current position. At the same time, she would like her job to become obsolete.


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s the sole legal advisor to Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, Yao is


unfailingly inspired by the Chicago-based nonprofi t’s mission—to feed America’s hungry through a nation- wide network of member food banks and to engage our country in the fi ght to end hunger. She loves her job, but understands that success for Feeding America means putting itself (and her) out of business. “Usually when we think of hunger, we think of


swollen-bellied children in T ird World nations, but in fact it’s around every corner,” says Yao, who joined Feeding America in 2007. “Over the last couple of years that need has increased by 40 percent. Today, one in six Americans does not know where their next meal is coming from. It’s a shocking statistic.” With a membership of more than 200 food banks


serving all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, Feeding America (known as America’s Second Harvest until late 2008) provides food to more than 37 million low-income people facing hunger annu- ally. Member food banks support approximately 61,000 local charitable agencies and 70,000 programs, which provide food directly to individuals and families in need. Yao’s practice includes handling contract review and


direction of outside legal counsel (primarily for litigation and tax matters), and she is currently leading the nonprofi t’s Enterprise Risk Management program. She is the only attorney there, and things change quickly. “In addition to dealing with contract review, trademark issues, and criminal matters, there are numerous questions from our membership: Is a food bank run by a church obligated to accept donations collected by a Wiccan group? Do we serve undocumented folks? No two days are ever the same.” Even before Yao joined the organization, Feeding


America had a history of relying on outside counsel volunteering their eff orts, usually through DLA Piper law fi rm. “My husband was one of those lawyers,” Yao says. “So about fi ve years ago, when I was with my former employer [the City of Chicago], Feeding America’s then- CFO Roberta Lane expressed that because they were growing so rapidly, it was time they found someone to handle contracts and eclectic issues in-house. My husband


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