COO Terra Keller among RBJ’s 2018 Forty Under 40 honorees

The Rochester Business Journal has selected Foodlink Chief Operating Officer Terra Keller as a 2018 Forty Under 40 honoree.

Forty Under 40 recognizes 40 men and women, under the age of 40, who have achieved professional success and have also made significant civic contributions to the community. A panel of judges consisting of previous winners from various professions select the Forty Under 40 honorees. In selecting the winners, judges look for candidates who excel both professionally and at a board level in the community.

Keller, who has been with Foodlink since 2009, has served as Chief Operating Officer since January of 2017. She is responsible for leading and managing all aspects of Foodlink’s 100,000-square-foot distribution center, 30,000-square-foot community kitchen and fleet of 15 vehicles, and for ensuring the safe distribution of more than 18 million pounds of food and 1 million healthy meals each year.

Keller has served numerous roles during her tenure, and has overseen two of the largest projects in Foodlink history. She served as project manager for Foodlink’s relocation to Mt. Read Boulevard in 2011, and the completion of the Foodlink Community Kitchen in 2016 – a $4.9 million project that included 3 years of planning and fundraising and 7 months of construction.

“Terra has worn too many Foodlink hats to count and has risen to every single challenge with which she is presented – without fail,” said Julia Tedesco, Foodlink President & CEO. “Terra does whatever needs to be done, and she does so out of deep commitment, passion and loyalty to the Foodlink mission.”

Tedesco and her colleagues were also pleased to see board member Matthew Squires, CEO of Manning Squires Hennig, named to the Forty Under 40 list, as well.

“This year’s Forty Under 40 honorees are building successful careers while also finding the time to volunteer and give back to our community in a meaningful way,” said Suzanne Fischer-Huettner, publisher of the Rochester Business Journal. “All share a commitment to making Rochester a better place to live. We at the Rochester Business Journal applaud them for all they do and look forward to their future accomplishments.”

The Forty Under 40 awards will be presented at a luncheon Nov. 14 at noon at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center, 123 East Main Street in Rochester. Winners will be profiled in a magazine that will be inserted into the November 16 issue of the Rochester Business Journal and will be available online at The event hashtag is #RBJEvents. For more information about sponsorships and tickets for the Rochester Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 awards, visit or call 585-363-7271.

Study shows high adult obesity rates in Foodlink’s 10-county service area

A new report from the NYS Department of Health shows that 6 of the top 15 counties with the highest prevalence of adult obesity fall within Foodlink’s 10-county service area. 

The counties of Seneca (44.8), Genesee (38.7), Wyoming (38.7), Livingston (37.5), Wayne (37.4) and Allegany (35.5) all had adult obesity rates north of 35%. Seneca County’s 44.8% rate was the highest in the state — by a wide margin. The next highest counties on the list were Washington (40.2%) and Tioga (40.1%).

The state Department of Health advises that: “Obesity is a significant risk factor for many chronic diseases and conditions including type 2 diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.”

Overall, one quarter (25%) of adults in New York State are considered obese, according to the study.

Rates for the other four counties in Foodlink’s service area were: Ontario (34.3%), Orleans (34.2%), Monroe (32.2%), and Yates (31.7%).

Foodlink marks Hunger Action Month, celebrates 40 years of ‘social innovation’


Foodlink on Thursday recognized its rich, 40-year history, while also pledging to continue its tradition of agility and innovation in order to address the crisis of hunger, food insecurity and poverty throughout the Finger Lakes region.

Foodlink staff and several elected officials gathered to mark Hunger Action Day – a nationwide awareness campaign within “Hunger Action Month,” led by the Feeding America network of food banks. In Foodlink’s 10-county service area, nearly 150,000 people are considered food insecure, meaning their household lacks access to enough food for everyone to live a healthy life. Foodlink also used the platform to launch its 40th year, which includes an anniversary logo, and a new strategic plan and vision for the years ahead. 

“It made sense for us to launch our 40th year during September, a time of year nationwide to heighten our awareness about hunger, and the fact that too many of our neighbors – including close to 50,000 children – are food insecure,” said Julia Tedesco, Foodlink President & CEO. “We are proud of our history of feeding people in the most innovative ways, and will take time this year to reflect on the past. More importantly, however, we will always look ahead to harness the power of food to find solutions for the challenges that remain.”


Foodlink’s official 40th anniversary is Dec. 19, 2018, which Foodlink staff members refer to as “Muffin Day.” On that date in 1978, Foodlink founder Tom Ferraro rescued a busload of English muffins to redistribute to those in need. Ferraro passed away in 2014, but his legacy remains.

While Foodlink recognizes its long history of redistributing food as one of the first food banks in the nation, Ferraro and others also realized early on that simply feeding people would not end hunger. If done correctly, a food bank’s responsibility is to not only “feed the need,” but “shorten the line,” which is why Foodlink has long practiced social innovation through the launch of numerous programs that target the root causes of hunger, such as food access, food literacy and under-employment.

“Tom Ferraro was a mentor for many of us at Foodlink, and certainly for me personally,” said Mitch Gruber, a member of Rochester City Council and Foodlink’s Chief Programs Officer. “While he often gets credit for his work establishing Foodlink as part of a statewide and national network of emergency food providers, it was the risks he took in making food banks an engine of social and economic development that made him so visionary, and one of Rochester’s great social entrepreneurs.”

Several elected officials helped Foodlink raise awareness and celebrate its 40th year. State Senators Rich Funke and Joe Robach jointly presented a proclamation, as did Assemblymember Harry Bronson. Sandra Simon, representing the City of Rochester as its Director of Special Projects & Education Initiatives, also issued a proclamation that recognized Foodlink’s 40 years of service to the community and declared Sept. 13, 2018 as “Foodlink Day.”


Cooks’ World silent auction raises $5,000+ for Foodlink

Foodlink and Cooks’ World have different missions, but both understand the importance of food, and how food has the power to bring us together. 

Foodlink and Cooks’ World also have something else in common. We’re both turning 40!

This summer, the long-time Brighton business came up with an idea that allowed both organizations to celebrate 40 years of serving the community. Owner Chis Wiedemer, who’s brother, George, serves on Foodlink’s board, proposed a 40-day silent auction, with the total sales going straight to Foodlink. 

The event began in late July, and lasted through Sept. 7, when all items — which were generously donated by many vendors — were closed for bidding. On Sept. 9, Cooks’ World hosted an open house to celebrate 40 years and announce the results from the auction. 

To our surprise, $5,115.78 was donated to Foodlink! Many Foodlink staffers attended the celebration, which also featured a Cooking Matters workshop, and an appearance by the Curbside Market. 

We are forever grateful to Chris and his entire staff for their generosity. Thank you for you support, and happy 40th to a great community partner!

Our new vision

For much of the past year, Foodlink has dedicated a considerable amount of time to updating its Strategic Plan. 

Our board of directors officially adopted the new plan in July, paving the way for an exciting array of innovative objectives and lofty goals in the years ahead. One of the more public-facing changes is the adoption of a revised mission and vision. While our mission’s language was tweaked ever so slightly, our vision was completely overhauled. Formerly, we touted a succinct vision of “a healthy, hunger-free community.”

Take a look at the revised versions below. We hope you like what you read! 

Our Mission

Our mission is to leverage the power of food to end hunger and build healthier communities.

Our Vision

We believe that the fight against hunger and the fight against poverty are one and the same. We envision a future in which food is recognized as a human right and every person is able to feed themselves and their families in dignity. Together, we work to create a more nourished, prosperous region. 

Celebrate Rochester Burger Week and support Foodlink!

We’re in the middle of Rochester Burger Week (July 20-28), which means the simple act of ordering a burger means you’ll be supporting Foodlink and its numerous food-related programs!

Here’s how it works:

  • Visit to find out which restaurants are participating.
  • Go to the restaurant and order the burger.
  • Eat the burger
  • $1 from each burger sold throughout the week is donated to Foodlink!

It’s that simple!

There are some tasty looking burgers out there from heavy hitters such as Char, The Gate House, Tap & Mallet, Nox and more. 

Foodlink staff members did their part on Wednesday when we stopped by Marshall Street for lunch!







Welcome to our new SOOP interns!

SOOP interns learn knife skills in their first Cooking Matters course July 13 at Foodlink.


There’s an uptick in foot traffic at Foodlink these days. 

On Monday, we welcomed the addition of 20 new Summer of Opportunity Program (SOOP) teens, who will be working with us throughout the summer. The City of Rochester program is designed to give employment and training opportunities to youth. Foodlink serves as a host site each year. 

These “Community Food Interns” came to Foodlink through a more competitive placement process than usual, and will help us with our various programs in July and August. They will assist our Curbside Market drivers, work in the distribution center, take a Cooking Matters course — all in the name in helping Foodlink build a healthier community. 

Welcome to Foodlink!

On their first day, SOOP interns learn about how to work at the Curbside Market, with Ray Mahar, one of our drivers.

Mobile Summer Meals site schedule


Each summer, Foodlink and other community partners collaborate to offer Summer Food Service Program meals (known as Summer Meals) to all children in the City of Rochester. Foodlink and the Rochester City School District serve as the main vendors, while the City of Rochester, Common Ground Health and the Rochester Area Community Foundation offer additional support to help feed some of our region’s most food-insecure children. 

A recent report helps illustrate the need that rises when school lets out and parents must account for two extra meals, per child, per day. According to survey data, many Rochester children live in communities with food-insecurity rates between 30% and 40%

Although there are approximately 70 sites that are open to the public throughout the city, some kids still have trouble accessing a Summer Meals site. Foodlink’s Mobile Summer Meals initiative helps bridge that gap for many parents. Through support from RACF, and through a generous grant from the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation, we were able to purchase a new vehicle (pictured below — thanks Bob Johnson Chevrolet for your great service!) to help transport more nutritious meals to locations without a nearby Summer Meals site. 

Additionally, Summer Meals will move beyond the city limits for the first time. Through a grant from the United Way of Wayne County, we are piloting sites in rural communities this summer. One site in Williamson has been confirmed, and a few others may follow. We will update the list above with any charges, as necessary. 

Our statement on immigrants, refugees, and why we care

Wednesday, June 20 was World Refugee Day, a day to “commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance” ( of the approximately 68.5 million forcibly displaced people around the world. It comes at a time when refugees and immigrants are facing increasing hostility from the federal government and nationalist administrations all over the world. The horrors of family separation at the US-Mexico border are only the latest installment.

Our neighbors who are refugees, immigrants and New Americans enrich and support Foodlink’s programs in so many ways. Food is our common language and shared mission. Students from Rochester International Academy grow over 5,000 vegetable and flower seedlings a year for Lexington Avenue Urban Farm, which nearly 60 refugee families have transformed into the largest and most productive community garden in Rochester. We are also privileged to work with refugee youth and families through Education Success Foundation’s Neighborhood Arts program in nutrition classes and a new community and teaching garden. Many of our member agencies, like Mary’s Place LLC, serve these communities as well. And we should not forget that much of the 19 million pounds of food that Foodlink distributes each year was grown and prepared by immigrants.

Refugees and immigrants represent the best of the American dream, and deserve the opportunity to build safe, healthy and happy lives for their families. At Foodlink, we believe that our communities are strongest and most vibrant when we accept and welcome all people.

We stand with our refugee and immigrant brothers, sisters and siblings and oppose any inhumane and immoral policies targeting their communities. These include, but are not limited to, family separation and the proposed indefinite family detention that may replace it, the elimination of domestic and gang violence as grounds for asylum, the multiple revocations of temporary protected status for those fleeing natural disaster and the overall reduction of the number of refugees accepted into this country. We encourage you to call your elected officials (Dial 1.888.398.8702 to connect with your representative’s office) and voice your opposition to these policies, and your support for those coming to this country to seek a better future.


New food insecurity data show level of need in Rochester, other communities


Newly released food insecurity statistics illustrate an overwhelming level of need within the City of Rochester, where many residents live in a household that struggles to feed everyone enough nutritious food.

Feeding America’s annual Map the Meal Gap report¹, which studies food insecurity across the country, publishes its findings each spring and distributes it to all member food banks. The data, culled from 2016 — the most recent year available — is presented by county, Congressional district, and by each food bank’s service area. For example, the overall food-insecurity rate for Foodlink’s 10-county region is 11.7 percent (147,420 people), and the child food insecurity rate in that same region is 18.3% (48,960 children).

Foodlink, with support from Common Ground Health, sought sub-county data this year for the first time to better understand the needs of various communities, particularly the City of Rochester. The elevated need in large cities such as Rochester, and smaller cities such as Geneva and Batavia, were often masked behind county-level statistics for Monroe, Ontario and Genesee counties, respectively.   

More from Common Ground Health: The food and health connection

Feeding America: The Map the Meal Gap report

In Rochester, three zip codes were among the state’s highest food-insecure communities (see table below). In 14608, 40.6 percent of residents are food-insecure — second highest in the state behind the 13202 zip code in downtown Syracuse. Two other Rochester zip codes cracked the top 10, with 14605 measuring at 34.8% and 14611 measuring at 34.3% — fifth and seventh, respectively. 

“Rochester’s food-insecurity rates were by no means surprising,” said Foodlink Executive Director Julia Tedesco. “They are illustrative of the deep connection between poverty and hunger and reveal that there is much work to be done by Foodlink and other mission-based organizations to eradicate both.”

Of all the metro areas in the state, Rochester’s collective food-insecurity rate was highest at 25.9%. Syracuse (24.8) and Buffalo (24%) were not far behind. A few rural communities also showed high food-insecure rates. The zip code 14480 (Lakeville, Livingston County) at the north end of Conesus Lake was 30.7%, albeit with a small sample size of 808 residents. The zip code 14802 (Alfred, Allegany County) was 24.5%. 

On the county level, all 10 counties saw improvements in their food-insecurity rates, as the overall rate dropped from 12.4% to 11.7%. Monroe County had the highest food-insecurity rate at 12.5%, which translates to 1 out of every 8 people. The county with the highest child food insecurity rate remained Allegany County at 22.4%. Ontario County possesses the lowest overall and child food-insecurity rates among the 10 counties, at 9.2 and 16.2, respectively. 

Researchers derived food-insecurity estimates by examining data for unemployment, poverty, median income and home ownership using the American Community Survey’s 5-year estimates (2012-2016). 

Highest food insecurity (FI) zip codes in New York:



County statistics (FI = overall food insecurity; CFI = child food insecurity)

Congressional District statistics:

¹ Gundersen, C., A. Dewey, A. Crumbaugh, M. Kato & E. Engelhard. Map the Meal Gap 2018: A Report on County and Congressional District Food Insecurity and County Food Cost in the United States in 2016. Feeding America, 2018.