Foodlink’s apple-slicing line adds a second shift

Responding to the growing demand for healthy, ready-to-eat snack foods, Foodlink’s Value-Added Processing Center has added a second shift to ramp up its apple-slicing operations. 

On Oct. 9, the Foodlink Community Kitchen launched a second shift, which allows its automated apple-slicing line to now operate from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (including time spent setting up the equipment, staff breaks, and clean up). The increased activity will allow Foodlink staff to produce — on average — 100 cases of sliced apples per day. There are typically 4-5 slices per 2.5-oz bag, and 100 bags per case. 

Foodlink began slicing apples in 2012, soon after a study was published that indicated children were much more likely to eat apples if they were pre-sliced. Foodlink sliced apples manually for four years in its former kitchen on Joseph Avenue, before moving into its new space in 2017. The expansion allowed Foodlink to invest in an automated line. Today, it is an official New York Grown & Certified facility, and Foodlink purchases apples exclusively from local farms in western New York, predominantly Wayne County — one of the highest apple-producing counties in the nation.

Foodlink slices its branded apples, but also recent secured a contract for a private label (Zee Zee’s) from National Food Group (NFG), a company that provides apple products to schools through USDA entitlements. 

Red Nose Day Fund awards grants to entire Feeding America network

The Red Nose Day fund announced its latest cycle of grant recipients this month, which included a $10,000 award to Foodlink. 

Foodlink has received steady support from Red Nose Day in recent years, primarily to help purchase much-needed supplies for the Foodlink Community Kitchen, which serves more than 1 million meals annually to at-risk children in Rochester. 

This year, Red Nose Day raised sufficient funds to support member grants for 100 percent of the Feeding America network of member food banks, which means 200 food banks were awarded $10,000 each.

Last year’s grant award enabled Foodlink to purchase numerous supplies to help us continue to provide optimal service to our partner meal sites and the students they serve. Supplies included: pans, warming pellets, steamers, a hand truck, cutting boards and coolers. We also purchased milk that we inserted into “Blizzard Bags,” supplementary meals that sites could already have on site in case a weather emergency prevented our fleet from delivering meals. 

Foodlink’s Curbside Market awarded significant grant by the USDA

A significant grant from the United States Department of Agriculture will allow for the continued growth and expansion of the Curbside Market – Foodlink’s mobile farmers market that visits underserved communities throughout the Rochester region.

The USDA’s Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) announced funding in late September for 44 projects totaling more than $13.4 million. Foodlink’s project, titled “Farms to Families: Promoting local foods and healthy futures through mobile markets,” was awarded $481,090 for a three-year period – one of the largest programmatic grants received in Foodlink’s 40-year history. Foodlink applied for an LFPP grant with the goal of becoming the nation’s first mobile vendor for the USDA’s Women, Infants & Children (WIC) program, which supports low-income mothers and young children who are found to be at nutritional risk.

SCHEDULE: Curbside Market fall routes

USDA: Full list of LFPP project winners

“We’re grateful that the USDA recognized our Curbside Market as an upstream solution to not only building healthier communities, but as a means to support our local agricultural economy, as well,” said Foodlink President & CEO Julia Tedesco. “Foodlink strives to make the healthy choice the easy choice for those whom we serve, and through this generous grant, we’ll be able to strengthen Curbside’s impact and open up new markets for local farmers.”

Currently, the Curbside Market predominantly sells fresh produce at affordable prices in low-income communities where access to healthy food is limited. As a WIC vendor, the Curbside Market eventually would be able to sell more types of products, and reach more young families in need of healthy, local foods.

“Since we launched five years ago, the Curbside Market has effectively attracted and incentivized customers who use SNAP benefits,” said Mitch Gruber, Foodlink’s Chief Programs Officer. “With WIC, we see a vital opportunity for growth, and through the USDA’s support, Foodlink can begin to offer more healthy food retail options for young mothers and children in our communities.”

The Curbside Market operates year-round, stopping at sites such as federally qualified health centers, low-income housing facilities, and senior and rec centers throughout Rochester and six surrounding counties. The market made more than 32,000 transactions in 2017, with total sales exceeding $216,000, and is on pace to surpass both marks this year. 

“We are proud that we are able to offer a wide variety of healthy — and local — products and produce to our customers, said Florence Clemmons, Foodlink’s Curbside Market Manager. “This grant will be a blessing to our loyal shoppers and we are thrilled to now have the opportunity to diversify our product offering.”

Foodlink will direct funds toward staffing costs associated with the planned expansion, as well as a new vehicle capable of handling and displaying more products.

A day to celebrate ‘Moving Up’ at Foodlink

The inaugural class members of the Foodlink Career Fellowship had more than the weekend to look forward to, as they walked into Foodlink on Friday. 

The inaugural class of Fellows celebrated the completion of the first quarter of their yearlong training at Foodlink. A small tasting event was organized Oct. 5 to celebrate their accomplishments, and show gratitude to the community partners and funders who made this program possible. 

PHOTO ALBUM: Check out more images from the event on our Facebook page

The Foodlink Career Fellowship is Foodlink’s newest workforce development venture — a yearlong culinary training program in the Foodlink Community Kitchen. Foodlink recruits individuals who have had barriers to employment — but a passion for food — into the program with the ultimate goal of training them for a middle-skills job in the regional food industry. The first class began their journey in July, thanks to the generous funding from the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund, William and Sheila Konar Foundation, and ESL Charitable Foundation. 

Fellows spent the first three months of the program learning the skills needed to work in a kitchen, both with hands-on experience in Foodlink’s Community Kitchen and Value-Added Processing Center, and through a renowned online training program, Rouxbe. Their training will continue for the next nine months, which includes a 3-month externship at Wegmans before graduation in June 2019. 

At Friday’s event, the Fellows prepared several delicious dishes, including:

  • Exploding Eggplant
  • Lil Spice Empanadas
  • Cajun Salmon Bites
  • South Meets East
  • Latinas Mofongo Bites

In a brief ceremony, each Fellow received a new knife set, and their first paycheck from Foodlink.