Foodlink celebrates 40 years with milestone Muffin Day

Similar to 40 years ago, the day began with a large donation of English Muffins.

On Dec. 19, 1978, founder Tom Ferraro collected a busload of Thomas’ English Muffins – marking the first donation to what would later become Foodlink, Rochester’s regional food bank. Every year, Foodlink commemorates that pivotal moment in its history by recognizing “Muffin Day,” and on Wednesday morning, another donation from Thomas’ arrived at its warehouse in honor of its 40th anniversary.

“We recognize ‘Muffin Day’ to honor our history, but also to recognize that the Foodlink of today — a multifaceted operation with dozens of programs – began with the generosity of a single donor,” said Foodlink President & CEO Julia Tedesco. “Our story is one of compassion, innovation and collaboration – and we value deeply all of the donors and partners who have supported our mission over the course of the last 40 years.”

News coverage from 12/19:

Foodlink wasted no time in redistributing 800 packages of muffins to the community. It delivered many of them to a local soup kitchen, St. Peter’s Kitchen, where Foodlink staff helped serve Wednesday’s meal – Chicken a la King over English Muffins – and helped pass out packages of muffins to individuals and families following the meal. Other packages were distributed to other member agencies, or mobile pantry stops in the region.

“St. Peter’s is one of our long-time partners and such a valuable asset to this community,” Tedesco said. “In celebrating our 40th anniversary, we felt it was appropriate to share the day with one of the many Foodlink member agencies doing excellent work to address food insecurity in our area.”

Celebrating the milestone at St. Peter’s also had historical significance. Ferraro went to elementary school in the same building that the soup kitchen now resides.

Ferraro began to address hunger and food insecurity in Rochester while working for Action For a Better Community in the late 1970s. After that first donation – for which he used an ABC Head Start school bus to haul away hundreds of English Muffins – Ferraro formed the Genesee Valley Regional Food Clearinghouse. It incorporated as an independent charity in 1983, then was renamed Foodlink in 1991.

Although Ferraro was partly responsible for launching a food bank network throughout the nation – he was a founding board member of what would later become Feeding America – he always knew food banking alone could not solve hunger. He oversaw the launch of several innovative programs, namely the Kids Cafe after-school meal program (1993), community kitchen (2001), Lexington Avenue Community Farm (2011), Value-Added Processing initiative (2012) and the Curbside Market (2013). Ferraro passed away in 2014, but his legacy remains strong.

“Tom recognized hunger as a symptom of other problems, such as chronic poverty, and not a root cause,” Tedesco said. “By addressing food insecurity in the Rochester region through this lens, and through his tendency to say ‘yes’ to challenges, he was able to have an immeasurable impact on so many lives in our area.”

Today, Foodlink distributes between 18-20 million pounds of food annually and collaborates with a network of hundreds of member agencies – food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters – to alleviate hunger for thousands of individuals and families. Numerous food-related programs that address barriers to a healthy lifestyle, such as food access, food literacy and unemployment, have allowed Foodlink to expand its role as a public health organization. The establishment of its new commercial kitchen in 2016 has allowed for the growth of its child meal programs, apple-slicing operations, and the launch of a new culinary training program, the Foodlink Career Fellowship.

Forty years later, Foodlink’s footprint is larger, its staff is bigger and the services it provides to the community are more diverse. It all started, however, with a single donation of muffins. Learn more about Foodlink’s 40-year history at www.foodlinkny.org.

Wegmans Check Out Hunger campaign raises $685K!

Thank you to Wegmans, and all of the shoppers who participated in this year’s Check Out Hunger campaign! Your generosity between late October and early December added up to $684,797 collected for Foodlink and its many food-related programs. The total exceeded last year’s campaign by more than $45,000.

Check Out Hunger is a point-of-sale campaign during which Wegmans cashiers ask shoppers if they would like to donate $2, $3 or $5 to Foodlink. Shoppers can also choose to round up their grocery bill, or donate whatever amount they choose.

Funding from Check Out Hunger enables Foodlink to distribute over 18 million pounds of food each year to its local network of hundreds of human service organizations throughout our 10-county service area. These community partners include soup kitchens, shelters, and food pantries that are working on the front lines of hunger every day.

Thank you for helping us build healthier communities!

Foodlink helps out victims of Thurston Road fire

On Dec. 10, a fire-alarm fire ravaged an apartment building on Thurston Road in Rochester, leaving 12 residents homeless just weeks before Christmas.

In response to a relief drive organized by City Councilman Adam McFadden, Foodlink responded quickly by assembling more than 30 boxes of food to bring to those affected by the fire. Volunteers and Foodlink staff helped pack the boxes, which included food items donated through the Food For Families campaign on Dec. 7 — an annual food drive spearheaded by Tops Friendly Markets, and WROC News 8.

Foodlink delivered the boxes to the relief drive Wednesday at Eclipse Bar & Lounge, a few blocks down the street on Thurston Road.

The fire left people without a home for the holidays. Spectrum News interviewed James Smith, who was displaced along with his 13-year-old son.

“It’s devastating when the reality hits you, and it’s like wait a minute, I don’t have anything,” Smith told Spectrum.

According to News 10 NBC, another relief drive effort is underway. On Dec. 22, a fundraiser is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Elim Christian Fellowship on Main Street.

Foodlink’s statement on the Farm Bill

Foodlink President & CEO Julia Tedesco issued the following statement after the passage of the Farm Bill by the House and Senate earlier this week:

“Foodlink applauds the passing of a bipartisan Farm Bill that garnered overwhelming support from both the Senate and House this week. The bill strengthens the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and rejects many of the harmful changes originally proposed by the House that would have jeopardized food assistance for more than 1 million Americans. Protecting SNAP was essential to ensure the food security of thousands of our neighbors in the Finger Lakes region. Furthermore, Foodlink was pleased to see increased support to other programs, such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which Foodlink depends on to access American-grown product for hundreds of our member agencies; and permanent funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Program, which incentivizes our Curbside Market customers who make healthy choices. We laud the members of Congress, and our fellow anti-hunger advocates across the country, who fought for a Farm Bill that protects our nation’s most vulnerable residents, and ensures millions have greater access to healthy food.”

A busy time of year for Foodlink’s Distribution Center team

Apples ready to to bagged up for delivery in Foodlink’s Distribution Center.

The November and December months are always a busy time of year for Foodlink, particularly for those who work in the distribution center. 

Our member agencies order more food, and we help ensure their clients have enough to eat around the holiday season. We place a heavy emphasis on proteins and produce during two large distributions this time of year. Here’s a breakdown of what left our facility as part of this holiday effort:

November

118 agencies served

9,599 chickens

171,957 lbs of fresh produce

December

116 agencies served

12,651 chickens

194,275 lbs of produce

Thank you to all of our member agencies who directly serve the need in your communities!

Foodlink opens up more volunteer shifts for December

Due to popular demand, Foodlink has added an additional warehouse volunteer shift on Thursdays evenings from 6-8pm for the month of December. As many of you know, our warehouse is at its busiest during the holiday season as we receive an influx of donated food. With your support, we are able to ensure those donations have been properly sorted, inspected, and packaged so we can distribute them to member agencies and community partners throughout our region. 

As you prepare for the upcoming holidays, please consider volunteering with Foodlink individually, or with family and friends. If you have volunteered with us before, please self-schedule yourself for a warehouse shift on our Volunteer Calendar. If this would be your first time volunteering with us, please register!  If you wish to volunteer with a group, please contact Volunteer Programs Coordinator, Jessica Lockett, at 585-413-4094 or jllockett@foodlinkny.org to secure a group reservation. 

Thank you!