Remembering Karen Leipold, volunteer extraordinaire

The Leipold sisters, Debbie (left) and Karen, started volunteering regularly at Foodlink in 2014.


It is with a heavy heart that we share the news of the passing of Karen Leipold, one of Foodlink’s most loyal volunteers, who passed away late last week.

Karen and her sister, Debbie, have been mainstays at Foodlink since 2014. The Leipold sisters have helped stuff envelopes with acknowledgement letters for the Development Department and filed invoices for our Operations team, among other tasks. They kept impeccably precise notes of their time here on colorful, lined paper, which is how we know they volunteered here 268 times, totaling 574 hours, since April of 2014!

>> Read the obituary for Karen M. Leipold

Occasionally they would leave behind some baked goods or other treats, and a kind note (like the one below) expressing admiration for the work we do. The feeling was mutual.

“Foodlink is forever grateful for time that Karen spent with us over the course of the last four years,” said Heather Newton, Foodlink’s Director of Development. “All of our volunteers are special, but Karen was exceptional. Our staff will always remember her smile, her altruism and dedication to helping us fulfill our mission.”

A portion of her obituary reads:

“She was an avid reader, volunteer at Foodlink, 52 year member of O.E.S. & served as Matron 3 times DDGM in 1992. Active in constantly sending cards & uplifting letters. Without legs for 16 years, was never held back. She was a true inspiration.

Family will receive friends 5 – 7 PM Thursday, April 5, 2018 at New Comer Cremations & Funerals, 2636 Ridgeway Avenue.”

On the eve of Volunteer Appreciation Month, we cannot think of a more dedicated pair of volunteers than the Leipolds. There are thousands of volunteers that enter our doors every year — including dozens who visit us multiple times per week and feel as though they’ve become part of our staff. 

Karen was like that, too. She was one of us, and we’ll always remember her service. 

Foodlink welcomes author Andy Fisher, ‘Social Purpose Grocery’ experts to Rochester

Author and activist Andy Fisher speaks during a panel discussion at Three Heads Brewing in Rochester on March 21.


Andy Fisher, long-time anti-hunger advocate, activist and author of “Big Hunger,” visited Rochester on March 21, spending the day with Foodlink and offering his critique of — and solutions for — the emergency food system. 

In his book, which was released in 2017, Fisher argues that the current model of food banking is too reliant on charitable giving, and too intertwined with corporate interests. He says food banks need to stop measuring their successes on “people and pounds,” and need to figure out upstream solutions to “shorten the line,” rather than “feed the need.”

One innovative proposal, called Social Purpose Grocery (SPG), was folded into the discussion when Foodlink invited two consultants from the Toronto-based firm, Mushroom Cloud, down to join Andy for the day. Daniel Bernhard and George Carothers have done extensive research on how food banks and non-profit organizations need to enter the world of food retail and help food-insecure families maximize their assets and stretch their food dollars. 

The day began with Fisher speaking with Foodlink staff for over an hour about his book, Foodlink’s programs, and other nonprofits that have developed innovative initiatives to target the root causes of hunger. 

>> Facebook: Video highlights from the event

A tour of Foodlink’s Community Kitchen.

Next, after Bernhard and Carothers arrived, Executive Director Julia Tedesco led a tour of Foodlink’s Community Kitchen. The group learned about Foodlink’s Value-Added Processing operations, and our soon-to-launch workforce development program, before breaking for lunch.

Shortly before 1 p.m., it was off to the WXXI studio, where Fisher, Bernhard, Carothers and Chief Programs Officer Mitch Gruber were guests on Connections. Fisher’s book, SPGs and Foodlink’s Curbside Market were all discussed during the hour-long program, entitled: “Why haven’t we solved America’s hunger problem? (Listen to the replay here.)

The group chats before the start of “Connections” on WXXI on March 21.

Finally, after a little bit of down time, Foodlink hosted a panel discussion with our guests at Three Heads Brewing called “Beyond Charity: Ideas to transform our broken food system.”

>> Facebook: Photo album from the event

Here are a few highlights from the discussion:

Andy Fisher on hunger: “Hunger is a symptom of a deeper problem — it’s a symptom of poverty. It’s not a matter of whether there is enough food in this country, it’s a matter of whether people have enough resources to buy that food. Poverty itself is obviously linked to make other structural issues, whether it be racism, sexism or a bad educational system … hunger is kind of a double-edged sword. It mobilizes people, but it also leads people toward shallow solutions. It leads people toward charity.”

Andy Fisher on charity: “… most people think, “Oh, the solution is food.” But that charity approach is not dignified, it’s disempowering, it can be degrading and unsustainable and it’s certainly not just. Charity is what society does when there is no justice.”

Daniel Bernhard on SPGs: “What we wanted to do was, start — not from a position of deficit and say, what are people missing? — We wanted to start by saying, “What have they got?” The $6.5 billion that food-insecure people in Canada spend on food every year is much, much bigger than the $1.7 (billion) that they’re missing. So our question was, instead of trying to fill that 1.7 billion-hole with charity that is unreliable, and unjust, and may not be nutritious and has all sorts of other problems and basically provides this garbage can to the commercial food sector that allows it to pay low wages and still look great, how can we take what people actually have and stretch it out?”

Andy Fisher on food banking: “I think of food bankers as good people trapped in a bad system. Food bankers talk about two different paradigms. One is ‘feeding the need’ — in other words, trying to pump through enough food to meet the needs of people who come to their door. And the other approach is ‘shortening the line.’ How do you reduce the number of people in poverty who are showing up to your door in the first place?”

Daniel Bernhard on charity: “It’s not stable … you can’t depend on it. When the economy is bad, people are least equipped to donate, and that’s when you need it the most. So it’s a difficult model. If you define people by what they lack, they just become passive recipients of service, and that’s not dignified, that’s not functional and it’s not sustainable and it will never, ever work to scale.”

Mitch Gruber on the future of food banking: “Food banks need to be drivers of community and economic development. I actually don’t think that food banks need to become obsolete, I would say we just need to be able to shift our operations significantly.” 

From left, Julia Tedesco, Andy Fisher, Daniel Bernhard and Mitch Gruber, take part in a panel discussion at Three Heads Brewing called: “Beyond Charity: Ideas to transform our broken food system.”

Goya’s ‘Can Do’ campaign delivers large donation to Foodlink

A Goya Foods truck pulls into Foodlink’s distribution center on Monday, March 19, 2018.

A truckload of products from Goya Foods arrived at Foodlink’s distribution center on Monday, a large donation earmarked as part of the company’s “Can Do” campaign in partnership with Feeding America. 

The donation totaled 34,580 pounds, which is the equivalent to nearly 29,000 meals. It was made in the name of Goya retailer, Tops Friendly Markets, as part of the first installment of the 1.5 million pounds of food (1.25 million meals) raised over the course of six months that will go to Feeding America and distributed to local food banks across the country.

“We’re incredibly grateful to receive this donation from Goya,” said Foodlink Executive Director Julia Tedesco. “Through our network of dedicated partner agencies, Foodlink will ensure this food ends up on the tables of thousands of food-insecure individuals and families throughout our region who rely on the emergency food system.”

Representatives from Foodlink, Tops Friendly Markets and Goya Foods pose for a photo after the delivery was made.

More than 20 types of Goya products arrived, including numerous types of rice and beans, tomato sauce, peas and vienna sausage. Foodlink is always looking to diversify the products it offers to its member agencies that serve the need in their communities. An array of ethnically diverse foods was a welcomed sight for our staff.  

Goya’s ‘Can Do’ campaign is a yearlong series of consumer product promotions that was launched in June 2017 and ends June 2018. Each month throughout the course of the year, Goya has featured a different product that consumers can purchase to participate in the overall donation. For every GOYA® product purchased during the designated month, Goya will donate additional products to Feeding America.

Founded in 1936, Goya Foods, Inc. is America’s largest Hispanic-owned food company.

A few of the pallets of donated Goya products that were delivered to Foodlink on March 19.

Foodlink, fellow food bankers make advocacy trip to Albany

Food bankers from across the state assembled in Albany on March 13 to speak with legislators about their priorities for the upcoming budget.

Two representatives from Foodlink made the trip to Albany on March 13 to join fellow food bankers and other community partners to discuss legislation and anti-hunger priorities for the next state budget.

Foodlink’s Mark Dwyer and Meg Demment met with the offices of: Assemblyman David DiPietro (147th District, which includes Wyoming County), Assemblyman Harry Bronson (138th District, which includes parts of Rochester and Monroe County), Senator Pamela Helming (54th District, which includes parts of Wayne, Monroe, Ontario and Seneca counties), and Senator Rich Funke (55th District, which includes parts of Monroe and Ontario counties).

Food bankers from the Southern Tier, Long Island, New York City, Central NY and Western NY joined Foodlink for the trip, which was organized by our Food Bank Association of New York State. Our main priorities included: 

  • Support of the Food Rescue and Recycling Act, which would require large food waste generators (2,000+ lbs per week) to donate edible food, and compost and send inedible food to an anaerobic digestor. 
  • Support for the governor’s No Student Goes Hungry proposal, which includes a ban on lunch-shaming, expansion of the Farm-to-School program, establishing Breakfast After the Bell policy at high-need schools, increasing the school meal reimbursement rate for districts who emphasize local ingredients, and the establishment of food pantries at SUNY and CUNY campuses. 
  • Request the reinstatement of COLA (Cost of Living Allowance) funding for the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program.

From left, Richard Schrader from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Mark Dwyer from Foodlink, Sen. Pamela Helming (54th District), and Meg Demment from Foodlink.

Snow storm impacts Foodlink programs and services

A few weather-related announcements, regarding the winter storm that’s hit our region on March 2:
 
(Updated at 7:40 a.m.)
 
– All of our food bank’s scheduled routes have been canceled (We had deliveries scheduled for Seneca and Wayne counties). We are working to reschedule them for next week.
 
– All Shop Thru agency appointments are canceled.
 
– The Curbside Market and Mobile Pantry stops scheduled for today are canceled.
 
– Volunteer shifts are canceled. 
 
– We’ve been told that today’s 2018 Forks and Skis event at Bristol Mountain, scheduled for Noon to 6 p.m. is still on. We’re encouraging people to stay safe and take their time getting there.
 
– Our kitchen is delivering to meal sites that remain open.
 
– Foodlink’s offices will remain open, should you need to get in touch with someone on our staff. We will be closing early at 3 p.m.
 
Thank you for your understanding, and please stay tuned for future announcements. 
 
Stay safe.