‘Garden of Love’ celebrated on Brown Street

St. Peter's Garden of Love now has nine beds, thanks to an Eagle Scout project and Foodlink's support.

St. Peter’s Garden of Love now has nine beds, thanks to an Eagle Scout project and Foodlink’s support.

Love is in the air?

At St. Peter’s Kitchen on Brown Street, it’s actually in the ground.

The St. Peter’s Garden of Love held a celebratory event June 24 to commemorate its revamped garden, which was made possible with help from Foodlink and one dedicated Eagle Scout.

Assistant Director Mary Lupien said the plot of land behind St. Peter’s went from a mess of weeds one year, to four beds last year, to this year’s much-improved 9-bed layout, complete with an impressive drip irrigation system.

The rain barrels for the drip irrigation system at St. Peter's Garden of Love.

The rain barrels for the drip irrigation system at St. Peter’s Garden of Love.

Joey Philippone, an Eagle Scout with Troop 110 in Webster, undertook the project after he was connected to St. Peter’s through his mother, who has been volunteering there for years. He said he spent 245 hours on the project between March and June.

Bok choy and arugula was already aplenty on the day of the celebration, and this summer they are expecting tomatoes, radishes, collared greens, squash, beans, zucchini and more. Joey, with help from his father, installed the garden’s sign June 24 to celebrate the culmination of the project.

Foodlink had a heavy presence at the event. The Curbside Market made a stop at the kitchen, which also hosts a soup kitchen as one of Foodlink’s member agencies. There was also a Eat Smart NY nutrition education demonstration held during the garden celebration.

The garden is one of 29 that Foodlink has partnered with throughout its service area.

“We couldn’t do it without Foodlink,” said Lupien, who added that they were able to harvest a few hundred pounds last year, but a hungry groundhog prevented that number from rising.

This year, groundhog or no groundhog (hopefully the latter), there is optimism for more.

From left, Mary Lupien of St. Peter's Kitchen, Eagle Scout Joey Philippone and Nathaniel Mich of Foodlink.

From left, Mary Lupien of St. Peter’s Kitchen, Eagle Scout Joey Philippone and Nathaniel Mich of Foodlink.

Addressing rural poverty: A trip to Allegany County

Foodlink's Laura Sugarwala speaks at a June 15 hunger forum at the Cuba Cultural Center.

Foodlink’s Laura Sugarwala speaks at a June 15 hunger forum at the Cuba Cultural Center.

Some people are amazed when they learn about Foodlink’s service area for the first time. Although many of our resources are dedicated to improving the lives of the residents in Rochester and Monroe County, we actually serve 10 counties — a 7,000-square-mile area — in western New York.

Monroe, Wayne, Ontario, Seneca, Yates, Livingston, Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming and Allegany. Our programs and partner agencies cover plenty of ground.

And that was certainly apparent June 15 when four Foodlink staffers traveled to Allegany County (the southern-most county in our service area that borders Pennsylvania) to attend a forum on hunger, hosted by the Cuba Cultural Center and Accord Corp.

It was a great experience to get out into a community that — because of the distance — Foodlink doesn’t get to see as often as the neighborhoods we service in Rochester. Cuba is 93.7 miles from Foodlink’s headquarters — and the trip was well worth it.

The Cuba Cultural Center in Cuba, NY.

The Cuba Cultural Center in Cuba, NY.

The panelists for the event included: Laura Sugarwala of Foodlink, Amanda Khodorkovskiy of Living Acres Farm in Alfred Station, Deb Catozzi of Hunger Action Network, Suzanne Krull of the Cuba Cultural Center and Teri Violet of Cornell Cooperative Extension. Belinda Knight of Accord Corporation served as the moderator for the evening.

Sugarwala, Foodlink’s Senior Manager of Nutrition & Food Safety Services, was joined by Chief Program Officer Mitch Gruber, Member Services Manager Morgan McKenzie and Communications Specialist Mark Dwyer. As Foodlink stated multiple times throughout the event, Allegany County is lucky to have great agencies such as Cuba Cultural and Accord to assist those in need.

Rural poverty is not the face of poverty. But the issues they face and the effects of food insecurity can be just as severe as those found in urban and suburban communities.

After Sugarwala gave a brief introduction on the breadth of Foodlink’s services in Allegany and beyond, Khodorkovskiy spoke about her sustainable farm that makes it a priority to sell healthy products locally, practice bio-diversity and welcome volunteers.

“If we’re going to talk about food insecurity, we also have to talk about how secure your local food system is,” she said.

Catozzi spoke of the importance of advocacy, for which the Hunger Action Network is widely regarded around the state. She said her organization, like Foodlink, aims to meet the immediate needs of the community, but also tackle the “root causes” of hunger such as poverty and employment.

Cuba Cultural Center partners with Foodlink in a variety of ways.

Cuba Cultural Center partners with Foodlink in a variety of ways.

Krull highlighted all of the ways the Cuba Cultural Center is addressing the issues ever-present in her community. They are Foodlink partners with the BackPack Program and as a Mobile Pantry site.

“But we can’t do it alone … it has to be a collaborative effort between all of the sectors,” Krull said.

Violet, who is from the San Francisco area originally but has now been a New Yorker for 20 years, made the case for the importance of nutrition education and meeting families where it is convenient for them.

In the Q&A that followed, key takeaways included:

* The need for volunteers to not only provide assistance, but witness the issues first-hand.
* There shouldn’t be such a distinct line at events that invite affluent donors who offer services and low-income residents who receive services. There needs to be more interaction. We need to “bridge that gap,” Krull said.
* The importance of promoting services through school districts … and on social media.

Foodlink is proud of its Rochester roots. But trips to Allegany County illustrate just how far we’ve grown as an organization — and how many people we serve.

Cornell Cooperative Extension's Teri Violet speaks at the June 15 forum on hunger at the Cuba Cultural Center.

Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Teri Violet speaks at the June 15 forum on hunger at the Cuba Cultural Center.

Progress report: Community Kitchen update (June)

Construction at Foodlink's new Community Kitchen.

Construction at Foodlink’s new Community Kitchen.

One month ago, Foodlink celebrated the groundbreaking of its new Community Kitchen. Dozens of community members, stakeholders and local officials joined us for a celebratory “apple-slicing” to mark a significant moment in our organization’s history.

Community Kitchen blueprint.

Community Kitchen blueprint.

So, what’s happened since then? We’d like to share a brief progress report and some photos as we hope to do this each month while the kitchen is under construction this summer.

Since the news conference was held May 11:

  • The framing of walls has begun
  • All equipment has been ordered
  • Asbestos abatement is completed
  • Plumbing is well underway

In the photo below, the Community Kitchen’s future Packaging Room is seen in the back. This is where food will be boxed, bagged and put into cases. To the left of that will be our walk-in cooler.

We’re excited to share future images as walls go up, equipment is installed and our Community Kitchen comes to life. See you next time!

The framing of walls has begun at the Community Kitchen. In the back, you'll see the future Packaging Room.

The framing of walls has begun at the Community Kitchen. In the back, you’ll see the future Packaging Room.

Foodlink retains 4-star Charity Navigator rating

Foodlink's 2016 Charity Navigator 4-star rating certificate.

Foodlink’s 2016 Charity Navigator 4-star rating certificate.

On June 1, Charity Navigator announced that under its updated and enhanced rating system, Foodlink was among a select group of nonprofits nationwide to earn a 4-star rating.

>> See Foodlink’s rating breakdown on the Charity Navigator website

Since 2002, using objective, data-driven analysis, Charity Navigator has awarded only the most fiscally responsible organizations a 4-star rating. Foodlink has proudly earned the distinction for eight consecutive years.

Foodlink has long been committed to sound fiscal management practices in pursuing our mission of ending hunger and leveraging the power of food to build a healthier community.

In 2011, Charity Navigator added 17 metrics, focused on governance and ethical practices as well as measures of openness, to its ratings methodology. These “Accountability & Transparency” metrics, which account for 50 percent of a charity’s overall rating, reveal which charities have “best practices” that minimize the chance of unethical activities and whether they freely share basic information about their organization with their donors and other stakeholders.

This past year, Charity Navigator introduced CN 2.1, which — in consultation with industry leaders — upgraded seven metrics used to assess a charity’s financial health. 

Thanks to all who continue to support Foodlink. We couldn’t achieve our vision of a healthy, hunger-free community without you.

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