Beverage giant Constellation Brands turns attention to food(link)

Constellation employees in Foodlink's distribution center on Monday.

Constellation employees in Foodlink’s distribution center on Monday.

Foodlink has a robust roster of volunteers that help us achieve our mission every day. This week, we’re thankful to get even more helping hands from one of our region’s largest and most successful organizations. 

Constellation Brands’ Nourishing Neighbors week is underway and volunteers are taking on all kinds of tasks at Foodlink and other local nonprofits. On Monday, a few early-risers were loading up one of our Curbside Market vehicles and were featured live on Good Day Rochester. 

Join us: Here’s how YOU can sign up to volunteer at Foodlink

On Tuesday, several Constellation volunteers helped sort and inspect food in our warehouse. On Wednesday, two shifts of volunteers helped spruce up and close down the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm. 

Community Program Coordinator Nathaniel Mich said the volunteers would help add 24 extra raised beds to the back area of the garden. The crops grown would then be sold on the Curbside Market and at other local stores. 

Nourishing Neighbors is one of the organization’s Social Responsibility initiatives. According to Constellation Brands’ website

“One of the causes that our employees are most passionate about is food insecurity. Our Nourishing Neighbors initiative, started in 2014, enhances the grassroots efforts of our employees through a unified, company-wide strategy. Employees are given paid time off to volunteer, and together with the company, donate food and money to help fight hunger in our communities.”

More than 200 employees are expected to donate their time locally this week. From all of us at Foodlink, we appreciate your service to our community! Come back soon!

 

Progress Report: Community Kitchen update (October)

The dish-washing room in Foodlink's new Community Kitchen.

The dish-washing room in Foodlink’s new Community Kitchen.

***

“This is the _______ room.” 

The line – a common one – was usually countered with a slow scan, a nod and then my imagination handled the rest. The blank, in these cases, referred to one of the many rooms in Foodlink’s new Community Kitchen. Meal Production, Value-Added Processing, Dry Storage, Expediting. So many rooms … and they all basically looked the same.

Until now.

I was pleased when I walked into the Dish-washing Room during a recent tour and I saw an actual dish-washing machine. That’s not to say it wasn’t fun to imagine everything, but stainless steel equipment helps, too. Like everything in this kitchen, the machine is a beast. We’ll never know for sure, but it looks as though one of those Smart Cars might be able to fit inside.

Other improvements, such as fresh paint and ceiling tiles, also assure observers that construction is in the home stretch. Seventy percent of the flooring is also complete. 

The Utility Distribution System (UDS) in the main production room is connected to the hoods. The UDS is where all equipment plugs into for access to water, electric, gas and internet. Yes, some of our more high-tech equipment will have the capability of sending data (cooking temps, etc) directly to a computer’s database. 

There are other exciting pieces of equipment, such as a garbage disposal system that easily filters out food that isn’t fit for our sewer system. 

This garbage disposal filters out any large waste as to not disturb the plumbing system.

This garbage disposal filters out any large waste as to not disturb the plumbing system.

In our ongoing video series, the last few interviews that I’ve conducted have all been kitchen employees. It’s easy to sense that a real excitement is starting to build amongst the staff as the kitchen takes shape and they either see improvements first-hand, or through videos and photographs. 

There are no longer holes in the ground; and when you look up, you see clean ceiling tiles rather than the “guts” of a building under construction (see below). The kitchen has a clean look to it. And with the equipment moving in, it’s starting to exude an aura of functionality.

In the months ahead, we’ll be able to move in our most prized possession: Our staff. 

Our Community Kitchen in early June.

Our Community Kitchen in early June.

Register for the East Ave. Grocery Run!

This year's East Ave. Grocery Run is Nov. 5.

This year’s East Ave. Grocery Run is Nov. 5.

The annual East Ave. Grocery Run is right around the corner. Register now for the Nov. 5 race and help us fight hunger!

Registration can be done in person at Fleet Feet Sports (Culver Road or Ridgeway locations), or online. There is a 5K, a 1-mile run/walk and a children’s fun run. An awards ceremony and post-race food and refreshments will be served. 

The race begins at Third Presbyterian Church (near East and Meigs) and heads east down East Avenue until Oliver Place. It then winds back through University, Goodman, East Main and Prince streets. Proceeds from the event go to agencies that help Foodlink fight hunger in Rochester.  

Also, don’t forget about the MVP Food Drive, in memory of our founder, Tom Ferraro. Bring a non-perishable item (or items!) to donate to Foodlink when you show up for the race. Our truck will be there to collect all the goods. 

Find more information on the race website. We hope to see you there. 

Bills, Tops & Campbell’s team up to tackle hunger

campbells_bills

251 and counting.

Or, if you’re a food banker, 5,020 and counting. 

The first number is significant to Buffalo Bills fans, as it represents the number of tackles made by Buffalo’s defense through four games this season. The second number, however, means a lot more to western New Yorkers in need. For every Bills tackle this season, 20 cans of soup are donated and shared among four upstate food banks, including Foodlink. The other three include: The Food Bank of Western New York, The Food Bank of Central New York and the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. 

Campbell’s Chunky Soup (remember those Donovan McNabb ads back in the day???), Tops Friendly Markets and the Bills have teamed up once again to Tackle Hunger and Foodlink, of course, is extremely grateful for their support.

“We are very pleased to continue our relationship with the Tackle Hunger program,” said Bruce Popko, Pegula Sports and Entertainment’s executive vice president of business development. “This is a very important initiative for our community and our neighbors who rely heavily on local food banks. We look forward to doing our part to help create a community where no one has to wonder where their next meal is coming from.”

 And in case you’re wondering which player has donated the most cans this year, here’s the top 3 so far: (1) Zach Brown – 34 (2) Preston Brown – 21 (3) Ronald Darby – 14. 

Thank you Zach for leading the charge, and thank you Bills for once again helping us end hunger in western New York!

 

Foodlink awarded highly competitive USDA grant

curbside1

The USDA announced Sept. 30 that Foodlink will receive grant funding from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which has invested more than $8.6 million in projects “to foster self-sustaining solutions that help make healthy foods available to families living in low-income neighborhoods.”

If you’re thinking that description sounds an awful lot like the work we do with the Curbside Market, you’d be spot on.  

Indeed, Foodlink will receive $125,000 from NIFA’s Community Food Projects grant program to help the Curbside program grow. Chief Program Officer Mitch Gruber told WXXI over the weekend that the funds will help Curbside expand, maintain its fleet and develop a greater relationship with the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm. 

A peek inside one of the Curbside Market's three vehicles.

A peek inside one of the Curbside Market’s three vehicles.

The Curbside Market is Foodlink’s mobile farmers market that sells fresh, affordable produce in underserved communities. Cash, debit, EBT and WIC are all accepted. SNAP customers can also double their purchasing power through Curbside’s enrollment in Double Up Food Bucks. 

Foodlink is one of 33 recipients of CFP funding nationwide. 

“Since 1996, the Community Food Projects program has empowered people in low-income communities to become more self-reliant in getting healthy, nutritious food,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. Recent USDA data indicates that we are making tremendous headway in battling hunger and food insecurity across America. With programs such as this we are able promote efforts to decrease food insecurity through healthy diets and nutrition education.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sen. Charles Schumer also praised the news.

“By supporting organizations like Foodlink, we can promote healthy eating and provide access to nutritious foods for New Yorkers who might not otherwise have the option,” Schumer said. “Fresh and affordable food shouldn’t be a luxury for the people of the Greater Rochester area. This Foodlink program will not only benefit tens of thousands of people in the Rochester area, but also help our farmers by increasing their production and yields for the year.” 

web_usda_nifa_centered_rgb_72

“We need to make access to healthy foods a priority in our communities,” Gillibrand said. “By investing in nutrition initiatives, we are not only ensuring our families have access to nutritious food, we are also creating opportunities for our local farmers. Through these additional resources, Foodlink will able to expand their ability to reach more families with local products.”

The Curbside Market’s current schedule runs through November. Check out the routes for Monroe County & Outlying Counties to find a stop near you. A new schedule for the winter and spring months will be released next month. 

This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture,Community Food Project.