Foodlink Fellows win friendly competition before leaving for Wegmans

The final day at Foodlink was a victorious one for the inaugural class of the Foodlink Career Fellowship.

To cap off the third quarter of Foodlink’s new culinary training program, the kitchen hosted a friendly competition between the Fellowship and Foodlink’s full-time kitchen staff. “The Great Foodlink Cooking Showdown was held in conjunction with the annual healthy potluck, where staff members prepare and share healthy dishes to celebrate the culmination of National Nutrition Month.

The teams had about one hour to prepare two dishes apiece. A judging panel then sampled each dish, provided feedback and determined the winner. The “Broccoli Tots” created by the Fellowship received the highest praise.

The Fellows have completed nine months of intensive training at Foodlink, both in a classroom (170 hours) and hands-on training (860 hours) preparing meals in the Foodlink Community Kitchen. They have also spent time (62 hours) developing their soft skills as they prepare for the next steps in their careers.

The final quarter of the year-long program, which was recently approved as the first official Cook Apprenticeship in the state, takes place outside of Foodlink. The inaugural class interviewed for, and all received internship positions at area Wegmans locations. The Fellows started on April 1.

On Saturday, the Fellows attended orientation at Wegmans’ flagship store in Pittsford, On Monday, they start their 3-month internship.

Report shows nearly one-third of New York adults eat no fruits or vegetables

The New York State Department of Health (DOH) recently announced the release of a new report that showed about one-third of adults (31.2%) in New York consume no fruits or vegetables per day.

The report, Percentage of Adults Who Consume No Fruits or Vegetables in New York State by County, was based on data from the 2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and presents data on no daily consumption of fruits or vegetables by county. The percentage of adults who consume no fruits or vegetables per day varies by county from 19.5% to 42.4%.

The findings illustrate how barriers to healthy food access are prevalent in many communities around the state. High cost is a deterrent to many, while limited access prevents many others from purchasing the fruits and vegetables that many families may take for granted.

Dietary guidelines recommend eating fruits and vegetables to reduce the risk for diet-related chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and obesity.

Jefferson County (north of Syracuse) had the highest rate in the state at 42.4%, while Columbia (south of Albany) and Essex (North Country) tied for the lowest at 19.5%. The 10 counties within Foodlink’s service area had the following rates of adults who reported no daily consumption of fruits and vegetables:

Allegany: 28.6%

Genesee: 33.3%

Livingston: 30.7%

Monroe: 27.5%

Ontario: 23.8%

Orleans: 32.6%

Seneca: 20.6%

Wayne: 33.3%

Wyoming: 24.5%

Yates: 21.0%

‘SNAP Gap’ distributions reach more than 12,000 people

Last month, Foodlink partnered with the United Way of Greater Rochester and several community partners to hold additional food distributions to help those impacted by the federal government shutdown earlier this year.

The early release of February SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits in mid-January resulted in a “SNAP Gap” for thousands of families in the Rochester region. Foodlink and the United Way — with key funding support from the ESL Charitable Foundation, United Way of Greater Rochester, Rochester Area Community Foundation, Greater Rochester Health Foundation, and Max & Marian Farash Charitable Foundation — held 14 “SNAP Gap” distributions during the week of Feb. 18-23. The distributions provided 180,000 pounds of food to more than 12,000 people throughout Foodlink’s 10-county service area.

Foodlink provided food to 3,412 households — 52% in the City of Rochester and 48% in rural/outlying counties. Overall, approximately 7,000 adults and 5,000 children were served and the distributions provided nearly 140,000 meals. Three of the highest 5 zip codes served during the week were among the most food-insecure zip codes in the entire state.

The week leading up to the distributions required plenty of coordination as food arrived in Foodlink’s distribution center from around the region. More than 500 volunteers helped pack 40- to 50-pound bags of product — and dozens more assisted at several distribution sites. The City of Rochester helped set up distributions at four city R centers, and the Salvation Army also stepped up to host an additional distribution. The other nine distributions were held at pre-scheduled Mobile Pantry sites outside of Rochester.

More than 78,000 pounds of product were donated by local companies including: Barilla (pasta), Bonduelle (frozen vegetables), General Mills (cereal), Kreher’s (eggs), LiDestri (marinara sauce), Regional Distributors (supplies), Seneca Foods (canned goods), Perfect Granola (granola bars), Orbakers Fruit Farm (apples), and Wegmans Food Markets (bread).

From everyone at Foodlink, and all of those whom we served, thank you to all of the volunteers, donors and community partners who helped pull this off. Your support means the world, and our neighbors were appreciative of our collective efforts.

Fellows land externships at area Wegmans

The inaugural class members of the Foodlink Career Fellowship were notified Monday of their acceptance into externships at various Wegmans stores and restaurants.

After a lengthy interview process on March 6, seven Fellows received their official acceptance letters when they arrived at Foodlink on Monday morning. They will finish up work within the Foodlink Community Kitchen in March, then begin their new roles on April 1.

The Fellows will be working at stores in Brockport (Jenna), Canandaigua (Kristen), East Ave. (Jehmel & Anthony), Pittsford (LaRhonda & Bre’Onn), and at Next Door Bar & Grill in Pittsford (Gloria).

After three months at Wegmans, the Fellows will graduate from the program and seek full-time work in the regional food industry. They began their journey in July, and have since completed a rigorous online training course (Rouxbe), and have hundreds of hours of hands-on experience preparing meals in the Foodlink Community Kitchen. Along the way, they have picked up six industry-recognized certifications to add to their respective resumes.

The interview process, which took place at Wegmans’ flagship store in Pittsford, included interviews by a Regional Chef, Human Resources representative and the Executive Chef at Next Door. Each interview lasted approximately 45 minutes. Fellows prepared resumes, cover letters and a portfolio featuring photographs and their various certifications.

Jes Scannell, Director of Career Empowerment Initiatives at Foodlink, and Clayton Waller, Career Coach, spent long hours preparing the Fellows for the interview process. They, along with the kitchen’s full-time staff members who have served as mentors to the Fellows for the past eight months, were applauded during an all-staff meeting at Foodlink Monday.