$16K for Iced Coffee Day

Dunkin' Donuts presented a check for $16,000 for Foodlink at the May 28 Red Wings game.

Dunkin’ Donuts presented a check for $16,000 for Foodlink at the May 28 Red Wings game.

Temperatures breaking 80 degrees, a refreshing beverage and a caring community all contributed to a successful fundraiser to benefit Foodlink in late May.

For a second year, Dunkin’ Donuts partnered with Foodlink to donate $1 from each iced coffee sold to Foodlink. Last year, the weather did not cooperate, but $10,000 was still raised to help Foodlink and the 200,000 people across 10 counties that benefit from our services. This year, on May 25, the community stepped up on a warm day to raise $16,000.

Dunkin’ Donuts presented a check to Foodlink during a pre-game ceremony at the May 28 Red Wings game.

“Every dollar raised will support our programs to ensure more neighbors in need are receiving fresh, healthy food,” said Terra Keller, Foodlink’s Chief of Staff. “It’s amazing how supportive our community is.”

Thanks to everyone who picked up an iced coffee last week — we truly appreciate it. Until next year …


Foodlink, officials celebrate Community Kitchen groundbreaking

Executive Director Julia Tedesco gives her remarks at the May 11 groundbreaking at Foodlink.

Executive Director Julia Tedesco gives her remarks at the May 11 groundbreaking at Foodlink.

A vision that dates back decades took another step closer to reality Wednesday at Foodlink.

The regional food hub celebrated the groundbreaking of its $4.6 million Community Kitchen — a 28,000-square-foot space that soon will be filled with state-of-the-art equipment and enable Foodlink to significantly expand its services and programs.

PHOTOS: Check out an album from the event on our Facebook page

“Today represents a monumental day in Foodlink’s history,” Executive Director Julia Tedesco said. “Our kitchen is a vital community asset and one that our founder, Tom Ferraro, had always envisioned expanding and moving to our operational headquarters. Having all of our dedicated employees finally working under one roof will strengthen our commitment to Foodlink’s vision of a healthy, hunger-free community.”

Numerous staff and board members joined Tedesco for the celebration, which also welcomed local, state and federal officials and major stakeholders to the new facility at 1999 Mt. Read Boulevard. Major funders for the project include: Empire State Development funding through the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council ($1 million), Greater Rochester Health Foundation ($650K), The Wegman Family Charitable Foundation (a $500K Matching Challenge, which helped to mobilize community support for the project), and ESL Charitable Foundation ($200K).

MORE: Media coverage from the event

The Foodlink Community Kitchen project aligns with the focus areas of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council and Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI), as well as the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative. Food must play a key role in community development, poverty reduction and economic mobility for our region. $250,000 of the $1 million in Empire State Development Funding came via the URI, a program designed to stimulate upstate economies.

The Community Kitchen will foster “pathways to prosperity” by leveraging food to build community health and nutrition and to reduce poverty via targeted job creation in the food and culinary industry.

“Foodlink has been at the center of the battle against hunger in the Finger Lakes region for more than 30 years, and today we are honored to help a great institution extend its reach and impact even further,” said New York State Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. “With our investment and the expansion of the Foodlink kitchen, we also make this a hub of regional agricultural activity and job development, and the result will be a healthier community.”

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks at Foodlink on May 11.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks at Foodlink on May 11.

Foodlink aims to complete the facility by this fall and have it up and running for the school year, when the kitchen is busiest. Several area charter schools, after-school programs and extended-day sites partner with Foodlink to provide healthy meals for thousands of Rochester’s low-income children. When school lets out, the kitchen serves up food for Summer Meals sites and other local camps and programs.

Over time, Foodlink expects to triple its capacity, which equates to more local children eating healthy meals. Numerous studies have recognized a proven link between better nutrition and improved educational performance.

“Ensuring that all of Rochester’s children have access to enough nutritious meals is vital to the overall health of our community,” said John Urban, president and CEO, Greater Rochester Health Foundation. “Because this offered us a unique opportunity to impact the health status and quality of life of children in Rochester, we decided to award Foodlink’s Community Kitchen an atypically large grant outside our standard grant cycles.”

Aside from expanding meal production and gaining efficiencies by finally operating out of a single location, Foodlink is eager to expand two other initiatives: Local Value-Added Processing and Culinary Workforce Training.

A concerted effort has been made in recent years to purchase apples from local growers and pre-slice them to make them more appealing for children. The technique, known as Value-Added Processing, has been hampered by limited processing space and the prohibitive cost of equipment. In the new kitchen, apples will be sliced at a rate of 24 boxes per hour, rather than 2, and other types of produce will be brought into the fold.

Finally, Foodlink will use its new space to develop a one-of-a-kind work experience program. Wegmans Food Markets has lent the expertise of its staff to help with a kitchen design that will take into account work flow, food safety, training capacity, and scalability for growth. The company also will help to develop the kitchen’s culinary training program.

“The way out of poverty is a job,” said Wegmans CEO Danny Wegman. “There are culinary jobs available in our community, but our community also needs a workforce trained to fill those jobs. This program will go a long way to close that gap.”

Apples were sliced during the ceremonial groundbreaking at Foodlink on May 11 to celebrate the Community Kitchen.

Apples were sliced during the ceremonial groundbreaking at Foodlink on May 11 to celebrate the Community Kitchen.

One week until Festival of Food

festival of food high resThe hustle and bustle of the Rochester Public Market will be transformed next week as Foodlink hosts its 10th annual Festival of Food.  Featuring the best in local food and drink, Festival of Food is the largest tasting event in the Rochester region.  More than 100 local restaurants, wineries, breweries, bakeries, specialty food shops will be participating on Monday, September 15th from 6-9pm at the Rochester Public Market.

Among the vendors:

  • Wegmans – Next Door Bar & Grill, Amore, & Burger Bar
  • Max Rochester
  • Lento
  • Sticky Lips BBQ
  • Red Tail Ridge Winery
  • Rohrbach Brewing Company
  • Black Button Distillery
  • Hedonist Ice Cream
  • Cheesy Eddie’s

Festival of Food benefits Foodlink, the regional food bank working to build a healthy, hunger-free community for over 35 years.  Tickets ($50 in advance, $60 at the door) are still available.  They can be purchased prior to the event at Wegmans, the Rochester Public Market and www.foodlinkny.org.

“Festival of Food is thankful for all the vendors and sponsors who donate their time, talents, and creations to support Foodlink’s efforts to end hunger,” said Terra Keller, Director of Community Relations at Foodlink. “You too can support Foodlink by joining us for a celebration of local flavor at the Foodlink Festival of Food.”

A panel of judges will determine best taste winners in a variety of categories.

fof collage


Monday, September 15th


Rochester Public Market
280 N. Union Street
Rochester, NY 14609

Special Note:

Festival of Food is made possible, thanks to the generosity of our sponsors: Wegmans, GMR Associates, Barilla, Alpina, Power Management, Constellation Brands, Big Apple Deli Products, DeCarolis, GLK Foods, Bonadio Group, Jay-C Fire, 13 One Photography Seneca Foods, Regional Distributors, and Zweigles.


Hunger Action Month

HAM_buckets3My online newsfeed is filled today with adorable children heading back to school.  I love seeing these kids decked out in brand new clothes with their endearing smiles and their eagerness to start off another school year.  Boy does time fly.  While September marks back to school, it also marks Hunger Action Month- a time to take action against those children and adults who struggle with hunger.   One in seven Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from, including one in five children.  Foodlink serves 200,000 individuals each year through our network of 500 human service agencies in our 10-county region.

How can you get involved during Hunger Action Month?  Here are a few ideas:

  • GO ORANGE: Thursday, September 4this Hunger Action Day- where participants are urged to wear orange and post on social media.  If you do wear orange, please take a pic, post online with the #hungeraction and tag @foodlinkny.
    • Feeding America has a cool app on its Facebook page that lets you turn your original FB profile pic into orange.
  • SELFIE STATION: This year, we are pushing selfies.  Attached is the selfie sign where you can fill in I will _____ to help fight hunger.  Fill in the blank, take a pic of yourself and again share with me and/or social media.  Again, don’t forget the #hungeraction and to tag @foodlinkny.
  • SHARE THE CALENDAR:   Click here for our 30 ways in 30 days calendar.  Follow along or share with others ways to take action against hunger.
  • SNAP CHALLENGE: Could you live on $5.00/day food budget for a day/week/month?  Try it and write a blog, essay, op-ed.
  • LIBRARY LIGHTS: The Rundel Library in downtown Rochester is turning its lights orange from September 1-14 to raise awareness.
  • FESTIVAL OF FOOD: Foodlink’s largest fundraising event is Monday, September 15th from 6-9pm at the Rochester Public Market.  Attendees can enjoy the best in local food and drink.  More than 100 restaurants, wineries, breweries, bakeries and specialty food shops will offer delicious and unlimited samples all evening long.  Tickets are available at www.foodlinkny.org, Wegmans, and the Rochester Public Library.
  • HUMAN LIBRARY: Visit the Rundel library on Saturday, September 27th from 1-4pm and hear real stories about hunger and the challenges facing those on the front lines fighting hunger.

Information on all these ideas and events for Hunger Action Month can be found at www.foodlinkny.org

Second Curbside Market vehicle debuts

Foodlink is doubling its efforts to bring healthy food to underserved neighborhoods, thanks to funding from Citizens Bank Foundation. Through a $41,300 grant, the regional food bank is adding a second Curbside Market vehicle as part of its food access programs. 

Curbside Market is essentially a produce aisle on wheels.  Foodlink sources fruits and vegetables from only local farmers and sells the produce at wholesale cost.  Stops include public housing units, community health centers, and neighborhood organizations in order to give people with limited mobility and food access an opportunity to buy affordable, fresh and healthy foods. 

In 2013, the first Curbside Market debuted, making 26 stops within the City of Rochester.  Approximately 40,000 pounds of produce was sold and roughly 6,000 individuals participated.  With the additional vehicle, the two Curbside trucks will make a combined 50 stops each week.  Locations have expanded beyond the City of Rochester to also include Orleans, Genesee, Wayne and Ontario counties. 

Curbside Market will be on the road through November. All locations are open to the public.  Cash, debit, EBT and WIC are accepted.   The Curbside Market schedule can be found here.  Follow @CurbsideMarket on Twitter for schedule updates, pictures and other information.


Festival of Food tickets on sale

festival of food whiteTickets to the best and biggest tasting event in the Rochester region are now on sale. Festival of Food is Monday, September 15th from 6-9pm at the Rochester Public Market. More than 100 restaurants, wineries, breweries, bakeries, and more will offer up delicious food and drink.   Tickets are $50 in advance, $60 at the door.  Your admission includes a complimentary tasting plate and wine glass and unlimited samples all evening long. Tickets can be here.  Proceeds from Festival of Food support Foodlink and our dozens of food-related programs to end hunger.  Thank you for your support of Foodlink and the local businesses that will be attending.  We hope to see you on September 15th! 

Summer Meals Kickoff

summer meals logoFrontier Field turned into a field of fun activities for children as part of the summer meals kickoff. This community-wide event was a celebration of the healthy, FREE meals available to ALL children in Rochester during the summer months.  The Summer Meals Program is a collaboration with the City of Rochester, Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, Foodlink, the Rochester Area Community Foundation, and the Rochester City School District. 

The kickoff celebration involved fun, sun, and a healthy meal for the approximately 1,200 children who attended. The kids participated in various activities including sports clinics, hula hoops, jump rope, trivia, crafts, nutrition education, and reading!


There are 66 open sites around Rochester offering free summer meals.  The Summer Food Service Program is funded through the New York State Department of Education.  The program provides breakfast, lunch, and even dinner to children. Families can call 2-1-1 or go www.healthikids.org to find the closest site.  Sites include Rochester schools, recreation centers, and various day camps.  Again, these meals are FREE OF CHARGE to any child 18 and under living in the City of Rochester. There is no need to fill out any paperwork. Youth can just drop into any site during meal time to enjoy a free meal with other kids their age.

The summer meals kickoff would not have been possible without the support from various partners.  A special thank you goes out to the following:

  • National League of Cities and Food Research and Action Center for providing funding for the event and to expand summer meals in Rochester.
  • Rochester Red Wings for hosting the event and treating guests with such a special experience.
  • FirstStudent for transporting all children to and from the event.
  • Monroe Ambulance for providing complementary on-site services.
  • Rochester Lancers, Rec on the Move, 5-2-1-0 Street Team, and YMCA for assisting in various activities.
  • Freshwise Kitchen for providing all the meals for those in attendance.
  • Volunteers from ESL Federal Credit Union and Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Former Foodlink employee dedicates national award to Tom Ferraro

On May 28, the United States Conference of Bishops announced that Bethany Welch, a Rochester native, is the recipient of the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award.  The national award recognizes a Catholic who is a leader in fighting poverty through community-based solutions.  Welch is a former Foodlink employee who is now founding director of the Aquinas Center in Philadelphia, PA.  She is dedicating her award to Foodlink’s late founder, Tom Ferraro.  “My time at Foodlink rerouted my entire life trajectory,” Welch told me. “I can’t say enough about how I was changed by being part of the Foodlink team.”  Here is more of my interview with Welch, her experiences at Foodlink and working with Tom, and what this award means to her.

welch then

Tell us a bit about your background and what you did while at Foodlink?

Welch: I started at Foodlink as a summer intern in 1999 while I was studying graphic design and communication at Roberts Wesleyan College. That first summer position led to a full time job after I graduated in the summer of 2000. I worked mainly on public relations and development at first, then moved into managing volunteers, and eventually policy and advocacy work, such as coordinating the regional portion of the Hunger in America study in 2001 and working with different legislators to get language in the Farm Bill for support for flash freezing. I went to grad school at University of Rochester and then on to Philadelphia to be an AmeriCorpsVISTA, but kept doing special projects for Tom part time. For example, I designed the first Freshlink logo and worked on the Farm to Fork initiative with Senator Clinton’s staff early on in the project.

What did you learn from your experiences at Foodlink and working with Tom Ferraro?

Welch: Tom was so passionate about finding creative, action oriented solutions to society’s most pressing issues. He didn’t simply sit around and talk about big ideas; he pursued change with a determination that sometimes overwhelmed those around him. Tom taught me so much about being a leader, about modeling what you expected from your team. I never wanted to let him down or to be found wanting. I attempted every challenge he gave me, even when I lacked the confidence or experience for the task at hand. As a result, I quickly became aware of how much one person could do to change broken systems. I consider Tom to be my first professional mentor. He gave me opportunities, believed in me even when I doubted my potential, and affirmed my desire to unite faith with action and to join scholarship with practice.

Describe the Aquinas Center and the work you are doing today?

Welch: Aquinas Center is located in a diverse, multilingual, multicultural community in a very densely populated inner city neighborhood in Philadelphia, PA. The center started as a conversation about an empty building. A priest, whom I had worked with on many community development projects on and off over nine years, called me in the summer of 2012 to come and see a former convent that was sitting largely vacant on the grounds of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church. Msgr Shields knew that I was passionate about the responsibility the Church has to be good stewards of the real estate they have in the inner city. I had done my dissertation research on the potential for adaptive reuse of church property to further community development in blighted areas. We looked at the old convent and talked about what the community wanted and needed. I went home that night and didn’t sleep. I ended up typing about five pages of ideas of what could be possible in the 8,500 square foot building. Later that summer I went to present these ideas to the parish finance council and left the meeting with the job of creating what is now Aquinas Center where our mission is to: Build unity in diversity, support learning, and inspire thoughtful action. We live this out through the values of hospitality, responsiveness, solidarity, and transformation.

Aquinas Center offers a wide range of programs that empower and benefit the local immigrant community as well as urban immersion experiences that invite youth and adults to come join neighbors in working to revitalize the neighborhood. This adaptive re-use of a former convent represents the kind of creativity and stewardship of church property that we need to combat the effects of poverty, blight, and discrimination. Shared meals, collaborative work projects, and intentional dialogue put people of different backgrounds side by side creating what Pope Francis calls a culture of encounter. All service and volunteer groups work side by side with community residents in order to try to break the cycle of poverty tourism or the belief that people need to be saved. Everyone has dignity. Everyone has gifts to share. Leadership training and organizing efforts increase the capacity of immigrants and allies to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform at the city, state, and federal levels.

What does the award mean to you?

Welch: The award is named for Cardinal Joseph Bernardin who died in 1996. He demonstrated tremendous leadership on behalf of the poor and worked to build bridges across ethnic, class, and age barriers. Cardinal Bernardin began his ministry at a young age and was ordained a bishop while still in his thirties. His example is inspiring to me. I am so humbled and honored to be selected as someone who might strive to live like he did. Aquinas Center is sitting at the intersection of the very same issues he confronted. Every day we welcome neighbors and guests who come from incredibly different backgrounds and experiences, yet desire to be in relationship with one another.

Why did you decide to dedicate the award in Tom Ferraro’s memory?

Welch: The conference of bishops say about Cardinal Bernardin that his gift was a vision to build consensus “that doesn’t just settle for what already exists, but moves us ahead to what is possible.” Doesn’t that sound exactly like Tom Ferraro? How many times did he dream up an idea that started with trays of English muffins, an empty building, an empty truck, or a vacant lot? How often did he see beyond what was already being done in order to cast a vision for what could be? Moreover, when the committee notified me about winning the award, they expressed that I demonstrated, “a great understanding of how to integrate faith into her work—to make her life, her work and her faith cohesive.” That is something I think Tom did every single day without even pausing to think about it and I wanted this award to celebrate that way of living.

What do you see doing in the future?

Welch: Right now I am focused on what we are doing in South Philly on one city block! I have ten bright eyed, enthusiastic college interns arriving in the next few days to spend the summer at Aquinas Center. Each one of them could have been me showing up at the Exchange Street building in May 1999. I want to share with them that legacy of engagement that Tom preached through actions. I want to help them realize their potential to fight for justice, one block at a time. In the more distant future, I’m hoping to work with other parishes and dioceses to broaden the vision of what could be! There are so many ways that these old buildings can become the foundation of a stronger urban communities.