“Early in my career I realized I wanted to put something positive out to the world. At the time I worked for a software company, but at the end of the day I helped them sell more software, but it didn’t fill me up.”

that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning,” she says. “After I had my own children, I started asking myself: ‘What is it that I am going to do that will convince me to leave my kids every day?”’ She considers herself a lucky person for a myriad of reasons including the fact her youngest brother was stricken with a brain disease. “He is still with us, and we are thrilled,” she says, adding, “I have been given so many wonderful opportunities, and I have been truly blessed.” Now living in Southwest Washington in the Portland, OR-metro area with her husband, Bill, and their 14-year- old twins, Will and Kailyn, Ruzzamenti says the area is reminiscent of her childhood home. “Where I now live reminds me of the Hudson Valley. We have apple orchards everywhere, and the apple industry has so much to be proud of out here — embracing organics, responsible sourcing and pollinator health,” she says. She mixes common sense and problem-solving in equal measure, and she knows how to prioritize. Being faced with a breast cancer diagnosis has taught Ruzzamenti the importance of selfcare. “I am better at selfcare than I used to be. We caught my cancer early, and what I learned is that it’s still a process,” she says. “I have a clean bill of health, but I now prioritize my own care.” In a recent identity list from an EFI staff retreat activ - ity, Ruzzamenti enumerated her most important roles as: mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, marketer, child of God, New Yorker, breast cancer survivor, hiker, kayaker, avid reader, life-long learner, explorer, baker...hoping to be a light for others. Passionate about helping women Easy to talk to and beyond comfortable in her own skin, Ruzzamenti embraces life and tries to make every moment

worthwhile. She is the first woman on her mom’s side of the family to receive an advanced education, and she says she is passionate about increasing opportunities for women at EFI. “I really enjoy helping other women achieve their goals,” she says. With an undergraduate degree in Public Communi- cation and Political Science from American University in Washington, DC, Ruzzamenti moved on to earn her Mas- ters at California State University, Sacramento, CA, where her thesis addressed organizational change. Organizational change is something she deals with extensively at EFI — especially making changes to the practices that are ingrained in the produce industry’s culture. It is especially helpful in the work EFI is doing in the food safety arena. Ruzzamenti says one of the biggest misnomers about food safety is that it is easy to control. “We have to create a more holistic, food safety culture. An auditor can show up and put a lot of check marks in boxes, but until you change behavior, risks still exist,” she says. “The workers can’t carry their cell phones like they sometimes try to do; the women are not always taking off their wedding rings because there are harassment issues, and they don’t feel safe. They think they need to commu- nicate their marital status to their fellow workers,” says Ruzzamenti. “You have to deal with the root cause, not go through checklists that can’t solve the greater issues. It is imperative to examine the bigger challenges that might be leading to food safety problems.” A strong believer in “together you go farther,” Ruz- zamenti loves the art of collaboration. “For me it’s about bringing people together,” she says. She tackles that through positive thinking, kindness, empathy, thought- fulness and “knowing that the important things in life are really the priority.”

Vision Magazine 59

December 2022

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