Celebrating another Muffin Day at Foodlink

muffin-day

What’s Muffin Day?

I realize that almost everything on Earth has a “Day” associated with it. We hear about it on Facebook, or on the local news whenever a quirky or abstract one appears on the calendar. And truth be told, there is a Muffin Day (multiple ones, actually, because Blueberry and Oatmeal apparently couldn’t share).

But here at Foodlink, Muffin Day is more significant. It represents the day — in 1978 — that our founder Tom Ferraro made a public plea for excess food to support Rochester’s local food pantries. The kind folks at Thomas’ English Muffins responded and off went Tom to the factory to pick up a few muffins. 

The donation, however, was larger than he expected. He had to return to the facility with a borrowed school bus, loaded it up, and the rest is history. Abundance was shared. 

So Dec. 19 isn’t just a day to enjoy a muffin or two (although we certainly did), it’s a day to recognize our founder’s vision and legacy. And nearly 40 years later, it’s a day to celebrate how far Foodlink has come as an organization. 

 

Sen. Gillibrand lends a hand at Foodlink

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) joined Foodlink staff members and volunteers in our distribution center on Dec. 16, 2016.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) joined Foodlink staff members and volunteers in our distribution center on Dec. 16, 2016.

With hundreds of bags of fresh produce to pack for our partner agencies during the holiday season, several Foodlink staff members joined volunteers Friday to ensure the job got done.

And they got an extra set of helping hands from a U.S. Senator. 

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand stopped by Foodlink Dec. 16 to help pack the bags, which included fresh apples, carrots, onions, potatoes and cabbage. The bags are assembled this time of year by volunteers and then delivered to more than 100 of our partner agencies. A grant from Citizens Bank provided funding for the purchase of the various food items. In November and December, Foodlink fulfills orders for more than 17,000 bags.

It’s one example of how Foodlink is emphasizing fresh fruits and vegetables and trying to increase the amount of nutritious food we distribute to our network. Gillibrand, well aware of our recent growth, spoke to the media after volunteering. 

“In just a few short years, they went from half-a-million pounds of fruits and vegetables and now they’re at 5 million pounds, which is incredible,” Gillibrand said. “So they are really making a difference and it’s exciting to be part of something that really cares about people.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand volunteered at Foodlink Dec. 16 by packing holiday produce bags for our partner agencies.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand volunteered at Foodlink Dec. 16 by packing holiday produce bags for our partner agencies.

With the exception of the carrots, all of the produce packed into each bag, which weigh approximately 14 pounds each, are locally grown. 

With the help of staff and volunteers from PricewaterhouseCoopers, 850 bags were packed in the span of just a few hours. 

Before Gillibrand packed bags, she was given a quick tour of Foodlink’s new Community Kitchen. The kitchen staff officially moved from Joseph Avenue to Mt. Read Boulevard on Dec. 5. The senator was particularly interested in our Value-Added Processing program, in which we slice apples for distribution to local children. 

“It’s really exciting how much they’re augmenting the work they do, and getting fresh fruits and vegetables to families,” Gillibrand said. 

Gillibrand said the holiday season is a great time to volunteer, but the need exists year-round. She encouraged everyone to sign up for a shift at Foodlink at some point throughout the year. 

“It makes a difference for families who are food insecure to have this resource here,” Gillibrand said. “It makes all the difference, especially around the holidays.” 

 

Sen. Gillibrand speaks to the media Dec. 16 at Foodlink.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks to the media Dec. 16 at Foodlink.

Community Kitchen: One roof, at last

The welcoming committee created this "family tree" and hung it in the new kitchen staff break room prior to their big move.

The welcoming committee created this “family tree” and hung it in the new kitchen staff break room prior to their big move.

 

Foodlink’s operational headquarters and our commercial kitchen have moved around quite a bit through the years. 

Just not at the same time, and never at the same place. 

That all changed, officially, on Dec. 5 when more than 20 Foodlink kitchen staff members began meal production in their new home at 1999 Mt. Read Blvd. For the first time in history, the kitchen staff will work under the same roof as their food hub colleagues. 

After construction wrapped up on Nov. 18, our staff spent time learning about the new equipment and going through an orientation, which included a tour of the entire facility (offices, warehouse and all), on Dec. 2. 

On Monday, Dec. 5 … it was showtime. 

Breakfast was served before the team's first shift Dec. 5 in their new kitchen.

Breakfast was served before the team’s first shift Dec. 5 in their new kitchen.

“Moving into Foodlink’s new community kitchen was an important day for us,” said Chrys Baldwin, Foodlink’s Director of Kitchen Operations. “With careful planning, we were able to transition without missing a meal delivery to any of our almost 70 community partner locations.”

You read that right. On Friday, we delivered meals to dozens of sites out of our Joseph Avenue kitchen. On Monday, we picked up where we left off at Mt. Read. If you’re familiar with working in an office setting, perhaps you’ve moved cubicles or offices at least once in your life. Maybe you recall the annoyance of emptying drawers, going through old files and packing up personal belongings. Wires, most likely, were everywhere. 

Moving from one commercial kitchen to another (the latter of which is 28,000 square feet), however, is a SLIGHTLY larger endeavor. 

“Our staff was well-prepared and excited about the transition, and the entire Foodlink workforce pitched in to make it all happen,” Baldwin said. “Now the hard work continues as we settle in, learn and get adjusted. It’s an exciting new beginning for Foodlink!”

Although the move represents a significant step forward for our Community Kitchen, the project itself is not complete. So far, we have raised more than $4.4 million of the $4.9 million needed to fully fund the Community Kitchen. Learn about how you can support this project on our website

Once all funding is secured, Foodlink — and the entire Rochester community — can begin to realize the full potential of this facility. We will:

  • Prepare and serve more healthy meals for Rochester’s children
  • Promote economic development through an improved Value-Added Processing program
  • Develop a one-of-a-kind workforce development program aimed at hard-to-place workers interested in culinary training. 

Our “one roof” goal was met on Dec. 5. It was one goal of many associated with this amazing project. We look forward to setting and meeting more in the years to come. 

Employees get prepared for their first shift Dec. 5 inside Foodlink's new Community Kitchen.

Employees get prepared for their first shift Dec. 5 inside Foodlink’s new Community Kitchen.