New food insecurity data show level of need in Rochester, other communities

 

Newly released food insecurity statistics illustrate an overwhelming level of need within the City of Rochester, where many residents live in a household that struggles to feed everyone enough nutritious food.

Feeding America’s annual Map the Meal Gap report¹, which studies food insecurity across the country, publishes its findings each spring and distributes it to all member food banks. The data is presented by county, Congressional district, and by each food bank’s service area. For example, the overall food-insecurity rate for Foodlink’s 10-county region is 11.7 percent.

Foodlink, with support from Common Ground Health, sought sub-county data this year for the first time to better understand the needs of various communities, particularly the City of Rochester. The elevated need in large cities such as Rochester, and smaller cities such as Geneva and Batavia, were often masked behind county-level statistics for Monroe, Ontario and Genesee counties, respectively.   

More from Common Ground Health: The food and health connection

In Rochester, three zip codes were among the state’s highest food-insecure communities (see table below). In 14608, 40.6 percent of residents are food-insecure — second highest in the state behind the 13202 zip code in downtown Syracuse. Two other Rochester zip codes cracked the top 10, with 14605 measuring at 34.8% and 14611 measuring at 34.3% — fifth and seventh, respectively. 

“Rochester’s food-insecurity rates were by no means surprising,” said Foodlink Executive Director Julia Tedesco. “They are illustrative of the deep connection between poverty and hunger and reveal that there is much work to be done by Foodlink and other mission-based organizations to eradicate both.”

Of all the metro areas in the state, Rochester’s collective food-insecurity rate was highest at 25.9%. Syracuse (24.8) and Buffalo (24%) were not far behind. A few rural communities also showed high food-insecure rates. The zip code 14480 (Lakeville, Livingston County) at the north end of Conesus Lake was 30.7%, albeit with a small sample size of 808 residents. The zip code 14802 (Alfred, Allegany County) was 24.5%. 

Researchers derived food-insecurity estimates by examining data for unemployment, poverty, median income and home ownership using the American Community Survey’s 5-year estimates (2012-2016). 

Highest food insecurity (FI) zip codes in New York:

County statistics (FI = overall food insecurity; CFI = child food insecurity)

Congressional District statistics:


¹ Gundersen, C., A. Dewey, A. Crumbaugh, M. Kato & E. Engelhard. Map the Meal Gap 2018: A Report on County and Congressional District Food Insecurity and County Food Cost in the United States in 2016. Feeding America, 2018.

 

Photos: Edible Education class plants flowers, herbs at school garden

Foodlink nutrition and gardening educators have been working with Education Success Network’s Neighborhood Arts program, which serves refugee youth in the Maplewood neighborhood, since January.

On Tuesday, we planted flowers and herbs that they had sown indoors around the MyPlate garden we’ve built at ESN’s Success Learning Campus. Check out some of the photos below…

Read more: Our Edible Education program was spotlighted in our recent Spring/Summer newsletter. Check it out. 

Rural Urban Dinner raises $5K for Foodlink

Foodlink on Monday accepted a check for $5,103.72 at the Waterloo Rotary Club meeting in Seneca County. The generous donation was raised in April at the 48th annual Rural Urban Dinner at del Lago Resort. 

Traditionally, the annual event has raised less than half that, however organizers were pleasantly surprised at the turnout, which included 18 sponsors, a farm-to-table menu with local food and wine pairings. 

Event organizers included: Ovid-Willard & Waterloo Lions Clubs, Seneca Falls & Waterloo Rotary Clubs, and the Seneca County Farm Bureau.

Other food-related programs that the group sponsors or participates in include a canned food drive, farmers’ market, food recovery and distribution program, and the BackPack Program (named Trevor’s Gift).

Foodlink welcomes Harley students for an ‘Allergy-Friendly Cooking Challenge’

Foodlink judges listen to Harley School students talk about their project before the Cooking Challenge taste test June 1 at Foodlink.

***

Here’s the thing about crazy ideas. 

Sometimes, they just might work. 

What started as an annual food drive by the students at The Harley School transformed into something much bigger in 2018. Jes Scannell Rooks, a Harley parent and Foodlink’s Director of Career Empowerment Initiatives, helped craft a new community service project — one that provided students with an “in-depth discussion about food, nutrition, hunger and recipe development … and a deeper understanding of Foodlink’s work in the community,” she said.

The focus of the project centered around how to devise tasty and healthy menu options for those inhibited by food allergies — a topic close to home for many fourth-graders at the school.

Foodlink staff visited with the fourth-graders multiple times to teach them about allergens and nutrition, and help them brainstorm allergy-friendly meals that would abide by Foodlink’s nutrition guidelines. They learned about various flavor combinations and tested meals in Harley’s new kitchen. The project culminated with a cooking competition and student-led presentations at Foodlink, where they also toured the Foodlink Community Kitchen and distribution center.

“One thing that struck me was seeing the kids grapple with the same issues that Foodlink’s Menu Innovation Committee struggles with consistently. It’s difficult enough to build a healthy meal, and it gets even harder when you have to avoid certain foods, work within a budget, or consider scaling the recipe up to make large batches,” said Margaret Liljedahl, Foodlink’s Nutrition Education Manager. 

On June 1, three groups of students prepared a different meal at Foodlink, and had to serve the meals, and give presentations about them, to a group of Foodlink judges. 

Gavin Shaw, who has food allergies himself, said the project allowed students to realize how fortunate many of them are, and gain a better understanding of the importance of food and nutrition. He was part of the team that worked on the “Josh Special” — named after Foodlink Eat Smart New York educator, Josh Wilcox, who helped with the project. 

After all of the meals were prepared and tested by six judges, including Foodlink Executive Chef Casey Holenbeck, the winners were announced. The group that prepared a delicious dish that included bow-tie pasta, broccoli and a cauliflower alfredo sauce earned the top prize. 

“Seeing the kids work through challenges was very impressive and the meals they created were delicious,” Liljedahl said. “It’s so exciting to see young people consider food in a new way and to work as a team to solve culinary problems. Lots of kids don’t get the chance to actually plan or cook meals, and today was a reminder that they can do a really great job, given the opportunity.”

Kudos to Rep. John Katko for voting against the House Farm Bill

The House Farm Bill, which was projected to cut millions of people from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the years ahead, failed when the House brought it to the floor for a vote Friday. 

The defeat was a victory for anti-hunger advocates around the country who condemned the partisan bill for its restructuring of SNAP — primarily due to the proposed new work requirements. 

The reason many Republicans voted against it actually had little to do with nutrition assistance or farming. The Freedom Caucus wanted House leaders to commit to vote on new legislation pertaining to immigration. One local GOP Congressman, however, opposed the Farm Bill for the same reason Foodlink and hundreds of other anti-hunger organizations around the country did. Rep. John Katko, whose district covers Wayne County and areas east near Syracuse, issued this statement after the 213-198 vote: 

“Our region’s farmers and growers contribute significantly to Central New York’s economy and I’ve proudly fought for their interests in Washington.  The Farm Bill before the House today included critical relief for our dairy farmers by improving the Margin Protection Program.  It prevented cuts for crop insurance that CNY farmers heavily depend on, and it strengthened programs for apple and other specialty crop farmers.  I was proud to advocate for these reforms, and applaud their inclusion in the bill that the House voted on today.

“Despite these wins,  I voted against this bill because I simply cannot ignore the devastating rate of poverty in my district.   With nearly 18% of all households in NY-24 dependent on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), I could not look past the provisions in this bill which would alter this program significantly and result in a crushing blow to the thousands of individuals and families in our community working to raise themselves out of poverty.  We cannot give the most vulnerable members of our community yet another disadvantage.

“This is the beginning of the process, not the end.  While the bill failed to pass through this chamber today, I am hopeful that both sides can come together to bring a bill to the President’s desk that will both strengthen our region’s farming communities and ensure that those who rely on SNAP are able to feed their families and work towards a better life.”

 

 

Foodlink celebrates ‘Seed Grant’ winners in Rochester

ROCHESTER – With winter fully (and finally) in the rearview in Rochester, Foodlink on Tuesday celebrated spring’s late arrival by recognizing innovative, start-up projects aimed to address food insecurity in our region.

Foodlink and food banks across the state helped coordinate the inaugural Seed Grant application process, aided by funding from the state Department of Health’s Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP). Seed Grants are start-up grants intended to help a non-profit or public entity begin a new or enhanced service that addresses the emergency food system and/or nutrition needs of low-income communities.

“We’re incredibly pleased with the quantity and quality of applications we received in the first year of this program,” said Foodlink Executive Director Julia Tedesco. “The Seed Grants we awarded demonstrate the level of commitment and innovative spirit of our partners addressing food insecurity in the Rochester region.”

Foodlink collected 30 applications this winter and awarded six start-up grants for innovative projects in three counties across its service area. Agencies receiving awards, which range from $10,000 to $30,000, include: Wyoming County Community Action / Warsaw Food Pantry (joint award), Barakah Muslim Charity, Victor Farmington Food Cupboard, St. Mark’s and St. John’s Episcopal Church, Greece Central School District and Taproot Collective.

 

Details of each project, and quotes from organization representatives are below:

Wyoming County Community Action, Inc. & The Warsaw Food Pantry ($30,000) will conduct county-wide Family Development Credential trainings, and create a school garden and develop farm-to-school practices in the cafeteria and classroom.

Pat Standish, Community Action for Wyoming County:

“Community Action for Wyoming County is grateful for our longstanding partnership with Foodlink. In addition to the food provided by them through our Community Action Angels programming, the education and training this grant provides to volunteers and community partners working with children and families facing chronic hunger, will increase our ability to communicate and provide a more holistic form of service; assistance that not only meets their hunger needs but their financial, social and emotional needs as well. We appreciate Foodlink’s expanded focus on helping those we serve to be successful in school, the workplace and in life.”

Cindy Kiel, Warsaw Food Pantry:

“We are very excited about our Growing and Sharing Produce Project with Warsaw Elementary School. What a wonderful way to build community. We hope that by educating children on healthy eating during childhood will help them make healthier choices as they become adults.”

***

Barakah Muslim Charity ($16,500) will operate a new community kitchen to address food-insecure individuals in the 14611 zip code of Rochester.

Irshad Altheimer, Barakah Muslim Charity:

“We are grateful for this Seed Grant and excited about its potential to help us better serve the community. The funds provided will enable us to expand our services and provide greater assistance to those in need.”

***

The Victor Farmington Food Cupboard ($10,000) will digitize its record-keeping and strengthen community partnerships with the Victor Free Library and Victor’s Farmer’s Market.

Dawn Rockefeller, Victor Farmington Food Cupboard:

“The Victor-Farmington Food Cupboard is humbled and grateful to be a recipient of Seed Grant funds this year. We are excited to put these funds to work helping us to reach and feed hungry families in our service area and to partner with other community groups to offer additional service to these families!”

***

St. Mark’s and St. John’s Episcopal Church ($24,500) will expand the hours of its food shelf, create a new training garden for area youth, and facilitate the development of 16 other urban gardens in Rochester.

The Rev. Cindy Rasmussen, St. Mark’s and St. John’s Episcopal Church:

“St. Mark’s and St. John’s is excited to be awarded a Seed Grant from Foodlink to expand our E.D.E.N. urban gardens, which provide healthy food, education and neighborhood gathering places that promote healing in the Beechwood and Emma neighborhoods.”

***

The Greece Central School District ($15,145) will better connect families in need with their new network of food pantries within the district, and other resources from partner organizations such as the Greece Community Learning Center and Greece Family Support Center.

Kelly Sperduto, Greece Central School District:

“We are thrilled to receive the HPNAP Seed Grant through Foodlink. This grant has afforded us the chance to hire Community Connections Parent Liaisons to help connect families with food instability to the community resources available within the Greece Central School District. This is a great opportunity for our district to grow and develop our Community Schools initiative. As a Community School, we our focused on developing expanded learning opportunities, integrating health and social services, and enhancing parent and family engagement.”

***

Taproot Collective ($18,769) will establish the infrastructure for a community food production and education space and help increase the amount of healthy, locally grown food distributed through the emergency food system.

Lauren Caruso, TapRoot Collective:

“As an award recipient of a Foodlink Seed Grant, Taproot Collective is able to jumpstart installation and programming this season at First Market Farm. This collaborative urban agriculture project increases long-term access to urban food production, offers seed to table educational programs, and serves as a holistic model for neighborhood food systems with youth and families at the core. The Seed Grant allows us to more closely connect with our partners in the Marketview Heights neighborhood and throughout Foodlink’s emergency food network.”

Foodlink joins Partnership for a Healthier America

 

WASHINGTON, DC—Foodlink, the Feeding America food bank serving the Finger Lakes and Genesee Valley regions of New York, announced today that it has pledged to improve the nutritional quality of the food it distributes and will continue to encourage families to make healthier choices through a three-year commitment with the Partnership for a Healthier America.

As part of a commitment announced at Partnership for A Healthier America’s Innovating a Healthier Future Summit today, Foodlink agreed to:

  • Increase the amount of nutritious food and beverage distributed by 25% over its base year, according to its Inventory Nutrition Ranking System.
  • Decrease the amount of food and beverage of minimal nutritional value by 10% over its base year, according to its Inventory Nutrition Ranking System.
  • Provide at least 50% of partner agencies with financial incentives to enable them to procure more nutritious food.
  • Apply at least two new wellness “nudges” (via Feeding America’s Healthy Pantry Initiative) in 25% of partner agencies or direct distribution programs.

Foodlink’s Chief Program Officer, Mitch Gruber, second from right, at the Partnership for A Healthier America’s Innovating a Healthier Future Summit on May 4.

“In recent years, Foodlink has taken significant steps to improve the nutritional quality of the food we distribute,” Foodlink Executive Director Julia Tedesco said. “We’re honored to join the Partnership for a Healthier America to continue this vital work, and we’re hopeful that by meeting these benchmarks, we’ll be another step closer to fulfilling our mission of building healthier communities across our region.”

As a pioneer in the national movement to provide access to nutritious food, Foodlink will be a part of PHA’s initiative to combat food insecurity and obesity alongside prior year partners, Feeding America, the Capital Area Food Bank, the San Antonio Food Bank, Atlanta Food Bank, and the Des Moines Area Religious Council. Foodlink and 10 other food banks are joining the partnership this year. Foodlink’s Chief Program Officer, Mitch Gruber, attended the PHA Summit in Washington, D.C. this week.

“More than 156,000 food-insecure people in western and central New York depend on Foodlink to feed their families in times of need,” said Nancy Roman, President and CEO of the Partnership for a Healthier America. “America’s food banks not only fight hunger – they have the opportunity to fight hunger’s companion health problems, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. In the 21st century, we simply cannot compound poverty with food inequity. We’re proud to partner with this vital organization to ensure food bank recipients get the nutrition they need to promote good health.”

Foodlink, RIT announce new partnership

Jeremy Haefner, RIT provost, and Julia Tedesco, Foodlink executive director, sign a memorandum of understanding at the Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival on April 28. Standing behind them, from left,, are Enid Cardinal, RIT senior sustainability adviser; James Hall, RIT executive director of the School of Individualized Study; James Winebrake, RIT dean of the College of Liberal Arts; Dr. Daniel Ornt, RIT vice president/dean of the Institute/College of Health Sciences and Technology; Barbara Lohse, head of the RIT Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition; Meg Walbaum, experiential learning and community outreach coordinator in the School of Individualized Study; and Heather Newton, director of development and community engagement at Foodlink.


The following news release was published by the Rochester Institute of Technology on May 2:

Rochester Institute of Technology and Foodlink Inc. have signed a formal agreement, strengthening their partnership and creating opportunities for new collaborative efforts in the fight against hunger in the region.

Jeremy Haefner, RIT provost, and Julia Tedesco, Foodlink executive director, signed a memorandum of understanding at the Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival on April 28. The closer working relationship outlined in the agreement supports the development of mutually beneficial programming initiatives, opportunities for experiential learning for students via internship or co-ops, collaborative scholarship and grant proposals.

“I think the partnership between RIT and Foodlink is a fabulous one not only for Foodlink, because they will get the power of our students working for them, but for our students themselves,” Haefner said. “This is a great opportunity for experiential learning, where they dive in and learn about how the real world works in the area of food distribution and dissemination.”

Added Tedesco: “We’ve have the good fortune of partnering with RIT for years through volunteer opportunities, group projects and various internships. This is a really natural and exciting next step in the partnership and, I think, will create a lot of opportunity for Foodlink to learn and for RIT students and faculty to engage in a community-based organization.”

A recent collaboration, gave students and faculty in RIT’s Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition in the College of Health Sciences and the College of Liberal Arts an opportunity to pilot a federally funded program encouraging the purchase of vegetables at Foodlink’s Curbside Market.

Attending the event from RIT were James Hall, executive director of the School of Individualized Study, James Winebrake, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and Dr. Daniel Ornt, vice president/dean of the Institute/College of Health Sciences and Technology; and Heather Newton, director of development and community engagement at Foodlink.

“Experiential learning is the hallmark of President Munson’s vision of our becoming the preeminent career-focused institution in the world,” Hall said. “We can’t achieve this goal without high-quality community partners who provide students with a range of problem-solving and service opportunities. Foodlink’s reputation and ambition is a perfect partner for RIT.

Added Winebrake: “The RIT-Foodlink partnership will provide opportunities for our students and faculty to address important food security, nutrition and hunger issues throughout our community.”

Foodlink is a regional food hub serving Allegany, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties. It distributes food to a network of human service agencies, serves meals through its commercial kitchen and offers more than 30 food-related programs.

Last year, Foodlink distributed more than 17.4 million pounds of food—including 4.9 million pounds of produce—offered more than 200 nutrition education courses and created new access points for healthy foods in underserved communities.

And the 2018 Rosa Wims Volunteer of the Year Award goes to …

Monday’s Community Food Conference — the first of two in the region — enabled Foodlink to gather its agencies together to share best practices, attend workshops and update them on what’s new with Foodlink.

A second CFC is scheduled for May 7 at SUNY Geneseo. 

PHOTOS: Monday’s conference at MCC

One highlight of the conference each year is when we honor a community volunteer who truly goes above and beyond (although ALL of the agencies we work with are going above and beyond in the work they do) to help serve food-insecure families and individuals in our region. 

This year’s winner is James Mateyka of Mission Share Outreach Center in Greece (10 Cedarfield Commons, Rochester, NY 14612). Mateyka, who has a learning disability, gives his heart and soul to the outreach center and has been at Executive Director Paul Filipiak’s side for years. According to Filipiak’s nomination:

“I have never met anyone with a servant heart bigger than James. He inspires and challenges us every day simply by his actions to love more deeply and serve more sacrificially each and every guest who comes through our doors at Mission Share.

“…James is very much an extrovert and loves talking with others.  He is always smiling, always happy, and he naturally overflows with joy.  His joy is contagious –  It lifts the spirit of those he interacts with, both clients and fellow volunteers.  That is a priceless gift!” 

While Mateyka was not at the conference to accept the award, Filipiak accepted it on his behalf. Congrats to James, and thank you Paul for the wonderful nomination!

 

‘F.E.A.S.T.’ fundraiser a huge success in its first year

Participating chefs gather around the event organizer, Chef Samantha Buyskes, before the start of F.E.A.S.T. at The Cracker Factory in Geneva on April 24, 2018.


What a F.E.A.S.T.!

The inaugural F.E.A.S.T. in the Heart of the Finger Lakes was held April 24, welcoming an enthusiastic — and hungry — crowd to The Cracker Factory in Geneva. The Foodlink fundraiser was championed and organized by Chef Samantha Buyskes of H.J. Stead Co. and 3 Brothers Wineries. 

More than 200 people, including the staffs of 18 vendors, gathered for the event, which featured a V.I.P. pre-event, followed by the main event between 6 and 8 p.m. 

Exploring Upstate blog: Recap of the event

Photos: Facebook album

The Cracker Factory at 35 Lehigh St. in Geneva.

Featured vendors included: FLX Foodies, Karma Sauce, Newbury Park Pastries, HJ Stead Co., 3 Brothers Winery, Knapp Winery and Vineyard Restaurant, Veraisons Restaurant at Glenora Wine Cellars, Eat me Ice Cream, Foodlink/Finger Lakes Eat Smart New York, Wegmans, Linden Social Club, Halsey’s Restaurant, Schraders Meats, Park Inn, Stan’s Waterloo, Muranda Cheese Co., Red Jacket and Lively Run.

Two bands were featured at the event: Not From Wisconsin, and Cool Club and the Lipker Sisters.

Foodlink is grateful to Buyskes and the amazing owners of The Cracker Factory for their kindness and support in planning this event. Guests seemed pleased with the setting and delicious sampling of foods, and were hopeful for its return in 2019. 

We couldn’t agree more!