Foodlink’s educators ready to celebrate National Nutrition Month

Need some motivation to eat healthier? This Friday marks the start of National Nutrition Month – an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to highlight the value of nutrition education and making informed, healthy food choices.

Foodlink, the regional food bank that hosts nutrition education workshops, classes and demonstrations around the community on a daily basis, has once again planned a month full of fun activities to help promote the annual awareness campaign.

DOWNLOAD & PRINT: Our 2019 National Nutrition Month Calendar

“Foodlink’s dedication to nutrition is apparent year round and is a shared value across the entire organization,” said Margaret Liljedahl, Foodlink’s Nutrition Education Manager. “This March we are using National Nutrition Month to highlight the evolution that the field of nutrition has undergone in the last 40 years, mirroring the evolution of Foodlink as we celebrate our 40 years of serving the community.”

To kick things off, Foodlink’s Executive Chef, Casey Holenbeck, will host a cook-off demonstration with Don Harter, the Regional Chef for Wegmans Food Markets for Rochester and the Southern Tier. This Food Network-inspired event – similar to the hit show, “Chopped,” will feature Holenbeck and Harter demonstrating their culinary creativity by creating dishes from mystery ingredients, including fresh produce from Foodlink’s Curbside Market. Each chef will have assistance in the kitchen from participants in the Foodlink Career Fellowship – a culinary training program launched this past July.

Foodlink operates several distinct nutrition education programs – all with similar goals of empowering people to make healthy choices – especially for those with limited food budgets. Educators with Cooking Matters, Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables and Eat Smart New York share healthy recipes, nutrition lessons, shopping tips with a wide range of audiences in the Rochester area. A new initiative, Edible Education, teaches children about gardening and making healthy meals with fresh produce – all while connecting schools to other Foodlink resources and programs.

After the kickoff event, other highlights for National Nutrition Month include:

March 6 – TV Time! A different Foodlink nutrition education program will be featured each Wednesday on Good Day Rochester. Tune in at 8:40 a.m. to learn more about how our programs are building healthier communities!

March 8 – Cooking Matters at the Store! This interactive grocery store tour gives shoppers tips on how to shop for healthy foods with a limited budget. We’re bringing the tour to the Tops at 450 West Ave. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

March 20 – Trivia Night! Join Foodlink’s staff at Three Heads Brewing on March 20 (7 p.m.) for a nutrition-themed night of trivia.

March 21 & March 28 – JSY at the Market! Our educators will return to the City of Rochester Public Market to give free, weekly demonstrations in a brand new kitchen space in the Winter B Shed. Join us for weekly workshops at 9 and 10 a.m.

Foodlink announces additional food distributions to address ‘SNAP Gap’

Foodlink this week announced the times and locations of 14 food distributions next week to assist food-insecure individuals and families who have been impacted by the federal government shutdown.

These special “SNAP Gap” distributions will serve approximately 3,500 households (250 per site) on a first-come first-served basis during the week of Feb. 18-23. Thousands of local families received their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for February weeks early due to the shutdown. As these families await their March benefits, many have had to stretch their food budgets or rely on Foodlink’s network of emergency food providers to help put food on the table. Federal government contractors who lost pay during a 35-day stretch from Dec. 22 to Jan. 25 also continue to feel the effects of the shutdown.

MORE: State announces that “many New Yorkers will see next month’s benefits appear approximately a week earlier than their normal schedule.”

SNAP GAP SCHEDULE: All sites | Rochester sites

“While it appears we have avoided another government shutdown this week, thousands of our neighbors are still feeling the effects of the first one,” said Foodlink President/CEO Julia Tedesco. “To help those who are facing a real crisis at home, we have collaborated with the United Way and other community partners to coordinate these extra distributions to address the increased need in our region.”

Foodlink strategically chose the week of Feb. 18 to schedule extra distributions for two reasons: (1) SNAP benefits were last distributed Jan. 17-20, meaning that most families would have used their monthly allotment by now; and (2) School vacation week (Feb. 18-22) puts an additional burden on families that now have to provide two additional meals per child each day.

The United Way of Greater Rochester has been a vital partner throughout this process, providing funds, and recruiting additional volunteers for this community-wide effort. Other contributors included the ESL Charitable Foundation, Greater Rochester Health Foundation, Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation and the Rochester Area Community Foundation.

“What I’ve seen over the past few weeks is what Greater Rochester does best—neighbors rallying together to help neighbors,” said Jaime Saunders, President & CEO of United Way of Greater Rochester. “Nonprofits, businesses, the City of Rochester and Monroe County came together to lend support. Volunteers have been working tirelessly to sort and bag critical food for families. Our community has truly demonstrated the incredible good we can accomplish when we’re united. Thank you to our partners at Foodlink for leading this charge so that hundreds of people could come together to help thousands more.”

City of Rochester R Centers, as well as the Salvation Army, have agreed to host five Rochester-based distributions throughout the week.

“We appreciate Foodlink, the United Way and others stepping up to help Rochester families who are at risk of going hungry this month,” said Mayor Lovely A. Warren. “With school out of session, I’m glad our City R-Centers can contribute to this effort to ensure children get the nutrition they need.”

Foodlink reached out to its many food vendors and distributors to solicit donations to help fill pre-packed pantry boxes for those in need. Contributing organizations include: LiDestri Foods, M Fellinger, Bonduelle, Perfect Granola, Wegmans Food Markets, Kreher Family Farms, Orbaker’s Fruit Farm, Barilla, and the Food Bank of WNY. Additional product through the USDA’s TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) was also requested, and Regional Distributors donated heavy-duty bags for packaging.

Foodlink and the United Way recruited additional volunteers to pack thousands of these pantry packs in the week leading up the distribution. Packs include: Frozen chickens, frozen vegetables, eggs, juice, apples, cereal, juice, pasta, marinara sauce, bread, oatmeal, granola bars, canned peaches, canned beans, split peas, canned vegetables, peanut butter, jelly and shelf-stable milk. The contents of each pack are expected to last approximately 3 days for a family of 4.

Next week’s food distributions will accommodate approximately 250 households each and will operate on a first-come, first served basis. There are no income requirements and no ID required, however name, address and household size will be recorded. Residents must be 18 or older to accept food, and distributions will take place rain or shine.

The public is encouraged to contact 2-1-1 LIFELINE to learn more about food assistance and other resources in their community.

Remembering Foodlink’s founder, Tom Ferraro, 5 years later

Today — Feb. 11, 2019 — marks five years since the passing of Foodlink’s founder, Tom Ferraro. 

Tom — a visionary, social entrepreneur and passionate anti-hunger advocate, is still very much part of the fabric of Foodlink’s innovative work, and is revered by those who worked alongside him. His death in 2014 left a massive void in a community for which he cared deeply. An excerpt from his obituary reads:

“He had an insatiable energy for life and he channeled this energy into Foodlink’s mission for nearly four decades. Tom was passionate about ending hunger and believed that food was the cornerstone of a strong economy, a healthy community, and empowered individuals.”

Below, Foodlink staff members who worked with Tom were asked to reflect on what made Tom special, and why he inspired so many …

“Tom was, and continues to be, a role model and mentor to me. His out-of-the- box approach to things has been a consistent guide to my way of thinking. Tom fueled my passion for community, leading me to start several youth organizations that host over 250 kids. Tom and my Dad were close friends and that relationship trickled down to us. I was there in hospice by his side in his last days and the conversations we had I truly cherish.”

  • Phil Daniel, Distribution Center Manager

“Tom created a culture of “yes” at Foodlink; he always wanted to be a good community partner and help any individual or organization that wanted to improve our community.”

  • Mitch Gruber, Chief Program Officer

“Tom was a passionate agent of change who could see talent and tap into people’s potential.  Many of my colleagues and I were lucky enough to be hired and inspired by Tom. He believed in me and gave me opportunities to learn and grow professionally, and even encouraged me to get my MBA. Without Tom, I am unsure I would have found a career that is so full of challenges, purpose, and meaning.”

  • Terra Keller, Chief Operating Officer

“I loved how Tom Ferraro walked in the door (of our kitchen) back on Joseph Avenue. I admired how he knew everyone’s names. He would walk up to you and ask you how your day was … I loved how he made sure you were doing OK.”

  • Daviana Rivera, Quality Assurance Supervisor

“Tom appreciated everyone who worked for him … and he let everyone know it, too.”

  • Leon Green, Warehouse Reclamation Lead

Foodlink opens up additional volunteer shifts to meet rising need

Foodlink’s distribution center is in need of volunteers this week in next, in preparation for additional food distributions that will take place the week of Feb. 18-24 in the Rochester area.

The federal government shutdown caused a disruption to thousands of families’ grocery budgets, when Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP) benefits were distributed weeks early for the month of February. This forced families to stretch their budgets longer than usual — some more than 40 days — as they await their March benefits.

SIGN UP! Registration: New volunteer registration | Calendar for returning volunteers

As a result, Foodlink and its Member Agencies expect to see a rise in demand for emergency food throughout the month of February. In partnership with the United Way of Greater Rochester and many other community partners, Foodlink is planning additional food distributions during the school break that begins Feb. 18.

Foodlink needs to recruit additional volunteers to help meet the day-to-day needs of our agencies, as well as prepare for these extra distributions. We have added slots to existing volunteer shifts, and added new shifts to our calendar. The shifts for which we are seeking additional volunteers include:

February 6 — 1 – 4 p.m.
February 7 — 1 – 4 p.m.
February 12 — 1 – 4 p.m.
February 13 — 1 – 4 p.m.
February 13 — 5 – 8 p.m. NEW SHIFT
February 14 — 9 a.m. – noon
February 14 — 5 – 8 p.m. NEW SHIFT
February 15 — 9 a.m. – noon
February 16 — 9 a.m. – noon NEW SHIFT
February 16 — 1 – 4 p.m. NEW SHIFT

Visit our website to learn more, and if you have any questions about volunteering — or if you are interested in signing up an entire group — call our Volunteer Programs Coordinator Jessica Lockett at 585-413-4094.

SIGN UP! Registration: New volunteer registration | Calendar for returning volunteers