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

Tops, Campbell’s donate 20K cans of soup to NY food banks

Officials from Tops Friendly Markets, Campbell’s and the Food Bank of Western New York gathered in Buffalo Tuesday to announce the donation of 20,000 cans of soup to four New York food banks.

The “Soup-er Bowl” event marked the culmination of “Family Meals Month,” when Tops and Campbell’s pledged to donate a can of soup for every can purchased at a Tops store. The cans were divided evenly among the Food Bank of Western New York, Foodlink, the Food Bank of Central New York, and the Food Bank of the Southern Tier.

“The Food Bank of WNY thanks Tops Friendly Markets and Campbell’s Soup Company for their continued partnership in the fight against hunger. This wonderful donation of soup will provide warm, nourishing meals for our neighbors in need during this cold winter,” said Tara A. Ellis, President & CEO of the Food Bank of WNY. “

As Check Out Hunger begins, Tops pledges to do more

Starting Sunday, shoppers at Tops Friendly Markets can add a little extra to their grocery bill to support food-insecure families in our region.

This year’s Check Out Hunger campaign with Tops begins Jan. 27 and extends through Feb. 16. Customers have the option of adding $2, $3, or $5 to their total when they check out. The money is donated to Foodlink, the Feeding America food bank that serves 10 counties in the Finger Lakes region.

“Check Out Hunger is a vital source of funds for Foodlink, which – alongside hundreds of community partners and member agencies – serves thousands of food-insecure individuals every day,” said Julia Tedesco, President & CEO of Foodlink. “We’re grateful to be part of such a giving community, and thankful to Tops for providing this opportunity for shoppers to donate.”

More than 150 Tops markets across New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont participate in Check Out Hunger, which has raised nearly $4 million since 2006. Foodlink and eight other food banks benefit from the campaign.

“Eradicating hunger and assisting our fellow neighbors in need is part of Tops core mission so supporting this effort on an annual basis is something that we gladly stand behind,” said Frank Curci, Chairman of the Board, and Chief Executive Officer for Tops Friendly Markets.

This year, with a government shutdown lasting more than a month and impacting many individuals and families in the Rochester region, Foodlink is working together with Tops to assist furloughed workers in our community.

Tops just announced that for every donation of $2, $3 or $5 made during the Checkout Hunger campaign, Tops is committed to donating additional meals for a furloughed neighbor during this time of need.

“We know this is a trying time for many Americans and Tops is dedicated to helping our fellow neighbors,” Curci said. “We recognize the need is pressing and so Tops is advancing the donation so that we can immediately work with the food banks and their outreach to these federally-employed families while they need it the most.”

Government shutdown causing uncertainty, angst among Rochester’s food-insecure residents

We’re sharing remarks by our President & CEO, Julia Tedesco, from today’s press conference about the shutdown and its impact on food-insecure residents in our region.Thank you to United Way of Greater Rochester, 2-1-1/ LIFE LINE (211 Finger Lakes Region), and Monroe County Dept of Human Services for collaborating with us to spread this important message!We’ve posted the press release on our blog. You can check it out here: http://foodlinkny.org/government-shutdown-causing-uncertainty-angst-among-rochesters-food-insecure-residents/

Posted by Foodlink on Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Foodlink and several local organizations on Tuesday gathered to discuss the government shutdown’s impact on the emergency food system, and affirmed their commitment to respond to a rising need in the weeks and months ahead.

The federal shutdown, which reached 32 days on Tuesday and is the longest in our nation’s history, has resulted in federal employees going unpaid, and has caused angst among the nearly 40 million Americans who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to put food on the table every month. At this time, SNAP benefits have been distributed for February, although there has been no update about how the government will fund the program from March onward.

NEED FOOD? Call 2-1-1 or check out Foodlink’s Mobile Pantry schedule

At an event Tuesday inside Foodlink’s distribution center, officials at Foodlink, the Monroe County Department of Human Services, the United Way of Greater Rochester and 2-1-1/LIFE LINE all spoke about how the shutdown is impacting our community’s most vulnerable populations – and what local organizations are doing to ensure people have the resources they need.

“Foodlink is always at the ready to collaborate with hundreds of its community partners when unexpected crises arise, and unfortunately, this government shutdown is having a dramatic impact on our emergency food system,” said Julia Tedesco, President & CEO of Foodlink. “We’re calling on members of our community to assist Foodlink and our network during this time of uncertainty. By donating or volunteering, you can help those who are directly impacted by the shutdown.”

The shutdown caused millions of Americans to get their monthly SNAP benefits weeks in advance, which has forced families to stretch their food budgets. Commissioner Corinda Crossdale of the Monroe County Department of Human Services also spoke at the event, echoing the state’s guidance that this advanced SNAP payment is for the entirety of February. 

“The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) recently announced that most SNAP clients will receive their full February benefits early, due to the ongoing federal government shutdown,” Crossdale said. “However, it is important for everyone to know this is not an ‘extra’ or ‘bonus’ benefit, and households will not receive a second benefit for the month of February. We are urging individuals and families to carefully plan their food budgets accordingly. For more information, I encourage residents to visit OTDA’s website at otda.ny.gov.”

Tedesco made a couple other points clear in her remarks:

  • Federal workers impacted by the shutdown should not be hesitant about visiting a local food pantry or soup kitchen for assistance. These agencies can and will assist all individuals in need of food, no matter the circumstance.
  • All individuals in need of food should reach out to 2-1-1/LIFE LINE, which connects people to resources in their communities. 2-1-1 has listings of dozens of Foodlink partners – such as food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters – and other agencies that can serve those in need.

“At 2-1-1/LIFE LINE, a mission program of Goodwill of the Finger Lakes, we stand ready 24 hours a day, every day, to support our community, including the government employees affected by the furloughs,” said Deb Turner, 2-1-1/LIFE LINE Program Director. “With over 6,000 resources in our database, 2-1-1/LIFE LINE is the vital go-to resource for everyone in our community who may be in crisis or knows someone who may need help. We are here every day to provide you the support you need and connect you to resources and information that will assist you. You can reach 2-1-1 by dialing 2-1-1 to talk to a trained telecounselor, texting 898-211, chat at 211lifeline.org, or follow us on Facebook for resource updates.”

Foodlink also announced that it will work with key community partners, such as the United Way of Greater Rochester, to organize some additional emergency food distributions if the government shutdown continues into February.

“Our community is strong and resilient. We come together during crisis – just as we did during the storm this weekend checking in on our neighbors and loved ones,” said Jaime Saunders, President & CEO of United Way of Greater Rochester. “While we cannot affect the uncertainty of this situation nor predict when it will resolve, our nonprofit and government partners across the community are working diligently behind the scenes to address the local consequences and to ensure all of our neighbors are able to meet their most basic needs.”

More details on upcoming food distributions will be announced on Foodlink’s website (www.foodlinkny.org) and social media channels (@foodlinkny).

Foodlink Career Fellowship praised in governor’s ‘Justice Agenda’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave his 2019 State of the State address this week, outlining his vision for New York State, and some of the policies his administration will hope to pass — with the help of a Democratic legislature.

With each State of the State comes a summarized agenda, published in a book released on the same day as the governor’s address. Within that book, called the “Justice Agenda” this year, are several sections about key issues, such as taxes, infrastructure, economic development, etc. In the section on supporting rural and agricultural economies, the governor’s office wrote:

“State support of the Finger Lakes region’s food ecosystem also includes enhancing career-development options. Foodlink, the region’s largest food bank and community food resource center, will establish a culinary arts apprenticeship program. This innovative new program — the first apprenticeship program of its kind in the state — will provide a career pathway for disadvantaged populations and expand the region’s skilled, food-production workforce.”

JUSTICE AGENDA: Download and/or read the booklet

Cuomo is referring to our new Foodlink Career Fellowship, which launched this past July. Its inaugural class of participants is now more than halfway done, and just a few months away from starting their externship at Wegmans. Last week, we heard that the Department of Labor officially approved the fellowship as the state’s first culinary training apprenticeship.

We hope to share more about this important achievement in the weeks ahead!

SNAP recipients urged to budget wisely during federal shutdown

***

The federal government shutdown — now the longest in our nation’s history — continues to impact millions of Americans’ ability to put food on the table.

When the USDA announced last week that funding was guaranteed for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) through February, it added that benefits for that month would be allocated on or before Jan. 20. For many, this is a full two to three weeks ahead of schedule.

POLITICO: Billions in food stamp payments to come early due to shutdown

“New Yorkers receiving their February SNAP benefits early need to carefully plan their food budgets as this will need to last through the entire month,” said Commissioner Samuel D. Roberts of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) — the agency responsible for overseeing SNAP in New York. “We will continue to work closely with our local partners to ensure that all SNAP recipients get their February benefits.”

MORE: Spanish version of information released by OTDA

Roberts wanted to ensure that SNAP recipients know that this is not an “extra” or “bonus” benefit and households will not receive a second benefit for the month of February.

“For many people, SNAP benefits rarely last a full month,” said Mitch Gruber, Chief Program Officer for Foodlink. “That’s why there is a concern around the nation about filling SNAP benefits for February earlier than usual. Many people will likely be without any food assistance at the end of February, which could be a real issue for our network of emergency food providers.”

While proper budgeting is the main point of emphasis for now, there’s a greater concern looming for March. In a Q&A provided by OTDA, the office had limited information for how SNAP will be impacted if the shutdown continues.

“OTDA has not yet received any information from the federal government about March SNAP benefits. We will continue to work closely with the federal government during the shutdown and will provide updates on our website at www.otda.ny.gov and through social media as it becomes available.”

Foodlink is communicating the latest news with our network of 400+ member agencies that serve thousands of SNAP recipients in the Rochester area, as well as our Curbside Market customers who depend on SNAP to purchase healthy foods every week. We will continue to update this blog as we learn more.

Hunger Group Opens National “Fed Food” Hotline and Web Portal during shutdown

A news release from Hunger Free America:

With increasing numbers of employees of the federal government and federal contractors nationwide forced to seek charitable food after missing a paycheck, Hunger Free America, a national nonprofit group, announced a new “Fed Food” toll-free 800 line and web portal to help anyone affected to locate free food and/or to volunteer their time to fight hunger.

Any employee of the federal government or a federal contractor — or any family member of such an employee — who is struggling financially as a result of the government shutdown, can call the toll free number 855-859-4647 or go to www.HungerFreeAmerica.org/FedFood to find food resources (such as government food programs and private food pantries) near them and/or to be connected with anti-hunger volunteer activities so they can productively utilize their time off work.

The toll-free line will have live operators answering calls Mondays – Fridays, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Eastern Time, and will take messages at other times. The hotline and web portal will be active as long as the shutdown lasts.

Explaining this new effort, Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg, said: “We want to make sure that anyone harmed by the shutdown can get and/or give help. Last Friday, hundreds of thousands of federal employees affected by the shutdown missed their first paycheck. The lowest paid federal employees — at the GS 3 pay level — have starting salaries of only $23,043. Numerous low-paid employees of federal contractors have also missed paychecks. Given that one in five Americans overall have either zero savings or have debt larger than their savings, it’s clear that low-income federal employees could quickly run out of food after being denied even one paycheck. Many dedicated public servants will need extra help with food. This shutdown vividly demonstrates just how many Americans are only one missed paycheck away from hunger.”

In Ogden, Utah — home to thousands of IRS and U.S. Forest Service workers — Catholic Community Services of Northern Utah waived the income requirements to access its food pantry so that federal workers could utilize it twice a month during the shutdown. In Huntington, West Virginia, employees of the Ashland Federal Corrections Institution have been forced to get food from a local food bank. Coast Guard employees in Key West, Florida have accessed charitable food for the first time.

Continued Berg, “Since most of the federal nutrition assistance programs are now funded through February, we can help federal employees who may now qualify for them to access them while they last. Ironically, some of the employees that administer federal food assistance may be now be eligible to obtain help from such programs. We can also help all federal employees and contract employees locate private charities that provide food help, although food pantries nationwide were overwhelmed before the shutdown, and they only have a limited supply of food, so there is no absolute guarantee that when people contact us for food help and we refer them to a local food program, they will get all the help they need. But if we can help even a little bit, we need to try.”

Berg himself was a federal employee for eight years, working as an appointee at the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1993 to 2001.

“I know from personal experience that most federal employees are very hard working and highly dedicated to public service,” Berg said. “That’s why we also want to make it easier for them to use their furloughed time to serve the public by performing anti-hunger volunteer service.”

SNAP benefits threatened if federal government shutdown continues

UPDATE: The USDA announced Tuesday night that they will ensure that all SNAP recipients receive full benefits through the month of February. In doing so, they will not have to dip into $3 billion in reserve funds, which would have been necessary to partially fund the program, absent this new proposal. As of now, if the shutdown continues into March, no federal funding has been allocated for SNAP.

***

With no end in sight for the federal government shutdown, millions of Americans are starting to wonder: What happens to SNAP?

The Supplemental Food Assistance Program (SNAP) provides funding for 40 million low-income Americans, allowing them to purchase foods each month with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. More than 120,000 people in Monroe County alone benefit from SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.

The most recent resolution funded the U.S. Department of Agriculture ensured that January SNAP benefits would be provided without interruption. Problems, however, could arise if the shutdown extends into February. Of course, the state and local agencies tasked with disbursing SNAP benefits also face an administrative nightmare due to the uncertainty surrounding this shutdown.

There is a $3 billion reserve fund that can be used to support the program in February, however monthly benefits nationwide run at approximately $5 billion — meaning there would be a likely shortfall and decrease in benefits unless localities are able fund the gap.

Foodlink Chief Program Officer Mitch Gruber has expressed Foodlink’s dissatisfaction with the shutdown and SNAP uncertainty in various interviews with 13 WHAM, WXXI and WDKX this week. If Rochester-area residents begin to lose a portion or all of their benefits, they become more heavily reliant on the emergency food system — the shelters, pantries and soup kitchens that Foodlink supports. Any disruption to SNAP would lead to an increased need at these emergency food providers — a need that food banks around the country may not be able to accommodate. (SNAP provides more than 10 times the number of meals than the entire Feeding America network of 200 food banks provides on an annual basis.)

Foodlink’s Curbside Market also accepts SNAP as a form of payment, and many customers use their EBT cards to shop at our market each week. Any cuts to SNAP would clearly impact our customers, and their ability to purchase healthy food for themselves and their families.

SNAP began in the 1960s with the lofty goal to utilize “the Nation’s abundance of food … to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation’s population and raise levels of nutrition among low-income households.” SNAP has a strong, evidence-based track record in effectively meeting this goal. In fact, SNAP helped more than 8.4 million people lift themselves out of poverty in 2015 (the most recent year available).

Foodlink is urging our elected officials to end the shutdown, so families across the country can have greater certainty about putting food on the table.