Tom Nardacci still remembers stocking the shelves and sweeping the floor at his grandparents’ corner store in Rensselaer where he grew up. “My grandfather was a butcher, and he and my grandmother owned Nardacci’s Broadway Food Mart,” he says. “There weren’t mega-stores—we were the market. But there also wasn’t a developed food pantry system back then. So my grandparents really became the pantry to the neighborhood. They didn’t turn anyone away.”
That emphasis on community never left Nardacci. This past August, the Capital Region native was named the new CEO of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, a Latham-based nonprofit that provides free food to those in need in 23 counties stretching from the Canadian border down to Rockland County and as far west as Oswego County. Founded in 1982, the food bank does a LOT—redistributing 50 million pounds of food each year (including 2.5 million pounds to Saratoga County alone). That breaks down to 350,000 people served each month, including 100,000 children. And the bank does this with 120 regular employees and a small army of volunteers that number around 18,000 annually.
“Every day, we have three shifts of volunteers who come in and sort, and I recently did my first volunteer shift as CEO,” says Nardacci, who worked with the varsity football team from La Salle Institute of Troy to sort three tons of produce in a single shift.
Here’s how the bank works: Expired or overstocked food is donated from local partners, grocers and large distribution centers. Food Bank workers and volunteers sort and repackage the food for redistribution, and everything unsuitable for human tables goes to farmers to feed livestock.
“It’s super sustainable—all these fruits and vegetables that would typically go to a landfill go to either people or farms,” Nardacci says. “Like I told the kids from La Salle, this produce that we’re putting on our dock right now, it’s going to be in people’s houses today or tomorrow.”
Nardacci’s new role is a far cry from how he made his fortune in his 30s—most notably by founding the Troy-based public relations and marketing firm Gramercy. But despite his success, Nardacci felt unfulfilled. So he sold Gramercy in 2021 and did some serious soul-searching. “The pandemic changed my priorities,” he says. “I’ve always been a volunteer—always been philanthropic and on boards. I thought, ‘What if I took all my energies and focused them in one area?’”
Nardacci had previously volunteered at the food bank, and when he saw the CEO position posted online, he immediately thought of his grandparents. “When I got my license, my grandfather was like, ‘I need you to pick up these boxes of groceries and deliver them to these seniors,’” Nardacci says. “I delivered them and never collected a check from anyone. Over my desk for my whole career, I’ve had a picture of my grandfather sitting on the stoop of his store. Now it’s on my desk at the food bank.”