Foodlink awarded ‘Farm-to-School’ grant funding from NYS

Foodlink learned on Jan. 5 that it was one of 12 organizations to receive “Farm to School” grant funding through New York State’s Department of Agriculture and Markets.

The $98,000 award will be used to purchase equipment for our Value-Added Processing Center, where we slice thousands of apples daily and work with distributors to provide healthy snacks for local schools. Funding also will be used to bolster staffing and allow us to obtain the next level of certification necessary to expand our operations. 

>> Read the full press release from the governor’s office

Foodlink was one of two organizations in the Finger Lakes region to receive funding — the other being Seneca Cornell Cooperative Extension, which received $89,442. 

“This investment continues our efforts to help our youngest New Yorkers learn healthy eating habits while also supporting the state’s agricultural industry,” Governor Cuomo said. “The program is a win-win for our communities and with $1 million awarded to projects across the state, we are helping to create a stronger, healthier New York.”

Other highlights from the governor’s press release:

  • The Farm-to-School program helps Kindergarten through Grade 12 schools connect with local farmers, increase the use of locally grown food on school menus, improve student health, and educate young people about agriculture. 
  • The projects will benefit 219,471 students in seven regions across the state.
  • The program also supports the expansion of the NY Thursdays Program, a school meal initiative that uses local, farm-fresh foods on Thursdays throughout the school year.
  • This is the third round of funding awarded. In his 2018 State of the State this week, Governor Cuomo proposed doubling the state’s investment in the program to $1.5 million.

Foodlink services impacted by plunging temps

UPDATE (Friday, 8:50 a.m.):

The Barakah Muslim Charity (584 Jefferson Ave) Mobile Pantry site scheduled for SATURDAY has canceled due to the expected weather conditions. As of this time, the other distribution scheduled for Livonia remains open. 

> January Mobile Pantry schedule

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Thursday, 9:45 p.m.

Due to the dangerous weather conditions expected on Friday, Foodlink is canceling all food bank deliveries. The one remaining Mobile Pantry site (Cross Creek Church in Macedon) is canceled, as well. (Lyndonville Presbyterian had already canceled its scheduled food distribution earlier this week.)

Our kitchen’s meal deliveries, however, will go forward for any programs that remain open in the City of Rochester. Foodlink is taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of its drivers amid these challenging conditions. 

Foodlink’s Curbside Market program, which was was already scheduled to be off this week, will begin its winter schedule on Monday (weather permitting).

Foodlink’s offices are open on Friday. Feel free to contact us at 585-328-3380 with any questions or concerns. Those in need of food should call 2-1-1 to learn about agencies and additional resources in their neighborhood.

 

Foodlink offers full support of state’s No Student Goes Hungry Program

Bags of locally sourced sliced apples in Foodlink’s Value-Added Processing Center.

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Foodlink Executive Director Julia Tedesco released the following statement regarding Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State, which includes a proposal for the No Student Goes Hungry Program:

“Foodlink fully supports the governor’s No Student Goes Hungry Program. Proper nutrition plays a fundamental role in the success of all students — from kindergarten through college – and contributes to the health and wealth of our region. We laud the policy changes that address lunch-shaming and expand opportunities for greater school breakfast participation. We are excited to continue our Value-Added Processing initiatives to bring more local products into public schools. In addition, we support Governor Cuomo’s belief that food pantries belong on every CUNY and SUNY campus across the state, and believe that our partnership with MCC can serve as a model for others to replicate.

“Foodlink is eager to collaborate with Governor Cuomo on these programs, and will continue to serve the Rochester community through its many innovative, anti-hunger initiatives.”

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his 2018 State of the State address Jan. 3, 2018 in Albany.

The No Student Goes Hungry Program is outlined below, and was originally announced Dec. 28, 2017 as the 15th proposal of Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today unveiled the 15th proposal of the 2018 State of the State: launch a comprehensive program to provide students of all ages, backgrounds and financial situations access to healthy, locally-sourced meals from kindergarten through college. There are nearly 2.7 million New Yorkers, including almost 1 million children, who do not have consistent access to the food they need to live an active, healthy life. The Governor’s No Student Goes Hungry Program includes investments to expand the Farm to School program, legislation to expand access to free breakfast and put an end to lunch shaming, and policy changes to ensure students in kindergarten through college receive access to farm-fresh foods in a quality learning environment.

“No child should ever go hungry, and by launching the No Student Goes Hungry Program, New York will ensure hundreds of thousands of students of all ages will receive access to free and reduced-price meals,” Governor Cuomo said. “This program is essential to the success of future New York leaders and this administration remains committed to removing barriers to healthy food options, while providing a supportive, effective learning environment for students across this great state.”

Child hunger is often associated with lower grades, higher rates of absenteeism, repeating a grade, and an inability to focus among students, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For many children, the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program offer the best opportunity to receive a regular nutritious meal. Yet, while nearly 60 percent of students in New York public schools are currently eligible to receive a free or reduced-price breakfast at school, only 34 percent of these students eat breakfast on any given day, according to the New York State Education Department.

By launching the No Student Goes Hungry Program, the state will provide students in need with locally-grown, quality meals, which will support an improved learning experience for children of all ages.

The Governor’s No Student Goes Hungry five-point plan is as follows:

Ban Lunch Shaming Statewide

Lunch shaming is a disgraceful practice in some schools where children are publicly humiliated in front of their peers by adults for not having money for lunch. In many cases, these students are forced to wear a sticker or bracelet, or have their name called over the loud speaker. In other cases, these students are given alternative, lesser quality lunches, such as a cold cheese sandwich when other students get hot lunches. Other national news reports have reported children simply being denied food if they cannot pay. 

The Governor will propose a law that when passed, would immediately end the practice of lunch shaming of any kind. First, it will prohibit any public act to humiliate a student who cannot afford lunch. Second, it will ban alternative lunches and require students to receive the same lunch as others starting in the 2018-19 school year.  

Require Breakfast “After the Bell”

High-need schools in New York are required to offer breakfast, but current law allows flexibility when it is offered. Therefore, many offer meals in only a limited time frame, which may be before buses arrive, making it inaccessible for many students.

In order to allow students to have breakfast and to prevent them from going hungry during morning classes, Governor Cuomo will propose requiring schools with more than 70 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch to provide breakfast after the school day has begun for the next school year. In successful breakfast after the bell programs, schools can either serve breakfast in the classroom, or offer nutritious vending machines options to ensure that students have access to breakfast as they start their day. In the city of Newburgh, where Breakfast After the Bell was implemented during the 2015-16 school year, schools have seen their breakfast participation rates increase by more than 100 percent.

To ease the transition, the state will provide technical assistance and capital funds for equipment such as coolers and vending machines to support breakfast after the bell. An estimated $7 million in capital funds will support expanded breakfast for 1,400 schools.

Expand the Farm to School Program

New York will double the state’s investment in the Farm to School program to support the use of healthy, local, New York foods in school districts across the state. The Farm to School program was created to connect schools with local farmers and offers technical assistance and capacity in the school to source products locally to help schools provide students with nutritious meals from food produced by local farms. Previous rounds of funding for this program have increased access to healthy, farm-fresh food for 324,000 students. This funding can be used for capital costs to support transporting and storing locally produced food, and to hire farm-to-school coordinators and trainings for crops and food preparation.

Governor Cuomo proposes doubling the state’s investment to add an $750,000 for a total of $1.5 million in Farm to School projects. If passed, the program would serve an estimated total of 18 projects and 328,000 additional students, bringing the estimated total number of students served to 652,000.

Increase the Use of Farm-Fresh, Locally Grown Foods at School

Lack of healthy, nutritious food can impair a child’s ability to concentrate and perform well in school. It is also often linked to higher levels of behavioral and emotional problems for children in preschool through adolescence, according to American Academy of Pediatrics. Therefore, incorporation of nutritious, locally grown foods supports healthy eating habits and is critical to the development of children. However, for a variety of reasons, including cost, many school districts are not offering healthier locally-sourced options.

To incentivize school districts to use more local farm-fresh products, Governor Cuomo will propose an increase in the reimbursement schools receive for lunches from the current 5.9 cents per meal to 25 cents per meal for any district that purchases at least 30 percent ingredients from New York farms. This is a win-win for students as well as New York’s local farms. 

Require Food Pantries on All SUNY and CUNY Campuses

Hunger on Campus, a report and survey done by several national campus organizations, found that 48 percent of survey respondents experienced food insecurity in the last 30 days. The same report also found that 55 percent of the respondents with food insecurity did not buy a textbookTo ensure consistent healthy food options are available to young adults on college campuses, the Governor will require all SUNY and CUNY schools to either provide physical food pantries on campus, or enable students to receive food through a separate arrangement that is stigma-free. The Governor proposes a $1 million state investment for schools to implement the program.

In 2009, fewer than 10 campus food pantries existed at private and state colleges nationwide, and as of 2017, more than 570 currently exist. Only about half of all SUNY and CUNY campuses have food pantries currently in place. If a campus offers students access to quality, affordable food options through an arrangement with an outside food bank, delivery and distribution must be included.

New York State would be the first state to require every public campus to have a food pantry.

A grocery store inside a food bank

Produce on display at Foodlink’s redesigned Shop-Thru space.

In an effort to provide a more welcoming atmosphere for partnering agencies that visit Foodlink, a portion of its distribution center is starting to look less like a warehouse, and more like a grocery store. The first phase of renovations is complete for Foodlink’s “Shop-Thru,” the area designated for local agency representatives to pick up food for their programs. 

For years, Foodlink has given agency representatives the opportunity to access free food items — typically perishable goods with a shorter shelf life — while visiting Foodlink to pick up their regular food orders. The accommodations, however, were not ideal. “Shoppers” entered the warehouse and could pick and choose food from several large totes of goods that rested on various pallets scattered near the doorway.

It was, and still is, known as the “Shop-Thru.” But now, Foodlink is providing a better environment in which to shop. 

Non-perishable goods are sold for 49c/lb at Foodlink’s Shop-Thru.

“Our agencies are able to access a wide variety of healthy foods through our online ordering system, however when most people shop, they like to see and feel the food they’re purchasing,” said Partnership Development Manager Phil Daniel, who oversaw the improvements made to the Shop-Thru area. “This space gives agency representatives the opportunity to access other items – such as fresh produce – at little or no cost in a more comfortable space designed to mimic a grocery store setting.”

Daniel wants local agencies to be aware of the newly organized space, which will eventually expand and relocate to a different area of the distribution center. For now, though, agencies should know a couple basics:

  • Most perishable goods are FREE. That includes all produce, bread and dairy on display.
  • Non-perishable goods, and non-food items, are priced at 49 cents per pound.
  • Protein items (chicken, pork, etc.), which are stored in Foodlink’s walk-in freezer but will be on display in the Shop-Thru, will be available for 49 cents per pound, as well. 
  • The Shop-Thru area is open between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is only available to representatives from Foodlink’s network of partner agencies. 
  • In order to access Shop Thru, agencies must send a representative to one of our monthly Shopper Orientation sessions. These occur on the third Tuesday of every month. Please contact Bryan Stephan at (585) 413-4057 (or bstephan@foodlinkny.org) for information about how to sign up.
  • Shopping is permitted by appointment only. To make one, log-in online through the PWW system, or contact Bryan.

The first phase of this renovation was made possible through generous support from the Kraft Heinz Company Foundation through Feeding America. A portion of the funding from our $15,000 award allowed us to purchase much of the shelving and display units seen in the new space. 

Phase II of our Shop-Thru renovation will happen next, thanks to funding from the state’s Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority

Thank you to all the agencies that help us serve those in need, and share our mission of ending hunger and building healthier communities!

Bread is free at Foodlink’s Shop-Thru.

Non-food items are also available for 49c/lb.

Produce bins give shoppers the opportunity to pick up some free produce.

Funding from the Kraft Heinz Company Foundation allowed us to purchase new displays!

 

Foodlink’s Community Kitchen: One year later

Andrae Lenear is Foodlink’s Production Supervisor within the Community Kitchen.

The high-tech, high-speed doors snap upward in an instant. As visitors enter the new Foodlink Community Kitchen, they are introduced to a new way of food banking.

Dec. 5, 2017 marks the one-year anniversary of when Foodlink’s staff moved from its former kitchen on Joseph Avenue to its new facility, which occupies 28,000 square feet of space adjacent to Foodlink’s distribution center on Mt. Read Boulevard. While the traditional model of food banking helps alleviate hunger within Foodlink’s 10-county service area, Foodlink’s leaders know solving hunger requires more innovative tactics that address hunger’s root causes, such as food access, poverty and unemployment.

Foodlink, in operation since 1978, is proud to be one of the oldest food banks in the country. Founder Tom Ferraro had served on the first Board of Directors for Feeding America, which was originally known as Second Harvest. His legacy continues to drive Foodlink’s mission, and the creation of this kitchen had been his dream for decades.

PHOTO ALBUM: The staff that turns our mission into a reality

“Tom had always wanted us all under one roof,” said Executive Director Julia Tedesco, noting that the food bank and kitchen had moved around town several times, but were always in different facilities. “What we’ve built here is a tribute to his incomparable drive to build the health and wealth of this community.” 

Visitors who turn the corner after entering the kitchen are quickly introduced to its three primary objectives:

(1) Healthy Meals. Foodlink opened its first community kitchen in 2001 with the goal of raising the bar on institutional food service. Today, Foodlink prepares more than 4,500 nutritious meals daily, and delivers them to schools and after-school sites in Rochester. A staff dietitian helps guide the newly formed Menu Innovation Committee, and production staff now has the benefit of preparing meals with state-of-the-art equipment that rivals any commercial kitchen in the region. 

Mary Cook, right, is one of the prep cooks in Foodlink’s Community Kitchen.

(2) Value-Added Processing. Foodlink feeds people, but also acts as an economic engine thanks to this growing social enterprise. A Cornell University study confirmed in 2011 that children would overwhelmingly prefer to eat sliced apples, rather than whole ones (Many adults do, too!). Foodlink took on this Value-Added Processing (VAP) initiative the following year to help many local farms reach new markets, and provide healthier snack options for local students. Soon, our sliced apple operations will pave the way for Foodlink to pilot other processing needs, such as carrot sticks and cucumber coins. 

Earl Whitaker is a production assistant in Foodlink’s VAP Center.

(3) Workforce Development. How do we best serve those in need? By making sure families no longer need us. The best social program we can offer food-insecure people, as Ferraro was fond of saying, is a living-wage job. Foodlink aims to meet this need by launching a one-of-a-kind culinary training program, created to meet targeted workforce needs in the Finger Lakes region. The first class of participants is scheduled to begin training in April of 2018.

A quick loop around the kitchen addresses these main objectives, and visitors are typically led back into the distribution center to finish up the tour – once again through those impressive doors that amaze third-graders and business leaders alike.

“Touring community partners and stakeholders through our kitchen allows them to see first-hand how far we’ve evolved as a food bank,” Tedesco said. “While racks of food several stories high is still an impressive sight in our warehouse, we hope our kitchen has transformed the way people think about Foodlink as a regional food hub that serves this community.”

Quanmain Harmon is a kitchen driver tasked with delivering meals safely to dozens of sites around Rochester.

VP Supply makes $20K holiday gift to Foodlink

This holiday season, VP Supply Corp felt compelled to step away from a decades-old tradition in order to maximize its long-standing commitment to good will.

Their annual turkey giveaway was always a hit with customers of the Rochester-based wholesale plumbing, HVAC, renewable energy, kitchen and bath supply company. This year, however, VP Supply wanted to redirect those funds to help more families in need. They turned to Foodlink.

Secretary/Treasurer Louis Curwin toured Foodlink on Nov. 7, and within a week had already selected a day to join his colleagues for a day of volunteering, and committed to donate $20,000. On Wednesday, VP Supply employees spent the morning at Foodlink to present the check and sort food during a volunteer shift.

“We’ve been around more than 50 years, and my dad, Elliot, and his partner Marv Miller — from the very beginning — had always emphasized the importance of giving back to the community,” Curwin said. “We did our homework and know that Foodlink is a wonderful organization committed to helping those in need and we’re honored to partner with them this holiday season.”

VP Supply Corp has more than 15 locations across New York State, which includes its corporate office in Rochester, and operations in Dansville and Holley – both of which are in Foodlink’s 10-county service area. For sites in other parts of the state, VP Supply has identified nonprofits such as the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York (Albany), the Calvary Food Pantry (Auburn) and the Open Door Mission (Glens Falls) for additional donations.

Foodlink’s purchasing power and 90,000-square-foot warehouse allows it to leverage VP Supply’s donation, and distribute more than 60,000 meals during a critical time of year.

“This is an impressive act of kindness,” said Heather Newton, Foodlink’s Director of Development and Community Engagement. “We are grateful for VP’s support during the holiday season and look forward to growing this partnership in the years to come. We’re also especially thankful for their volunteering help – as we’ve received numerous food donations in recent weeks and need all of the helping hands we can get to make sure it’s sorted, inspected and ready to distribute to those in need.”

It’s butternut squash season! Here’s what you need to know

By Martha Wasserbauer
Foodlink dietetic intern from Cornell University 

With the fall season in full swing, a variety of colorful squashes, gourds, and pumpkins can be found at most markets in the area. Winter squash and pumpkins are often used as decorations to celebrate autumn, but did you know that many varieties are edible and are a great source of nutrition?

Winter squash are high in alpha- and beta-carotene, both of which are forms of vitamin A that support eye, skin, and immune system health. They also contain high levels of vitamin C, which fights free radicals and supports cell healing and repair. Most winter squashes provide around 6 grams of dietary fiber per cup, which provides about 25% of most people’s recommended daily needs. Squash and pumpkins are good sources of folate, potassium, and antioxidants, which help prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Edible pumpkins and squash are easy to store and have a long shelf-life, due to their tough and protective skins. They do not need to be refrigerated, but should ideally be stored in a cool, dark environment to give them a shelf-life of at least one month.

When purchasing winter squash and pumpkins, choose squash that have a hard, intact skin without bruises, cuts, or mold. 1 pound of raw squash or pumpkin will yield about 1 cup when cooked and/or mashed.

There are a variety of methods for cooking edible squash and pumpkins. To boil or steam, peel and cube squash, place in a pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil or put in a steamer basket and cook until soft. Try baking squash by cutting in half lengthwise, removing the seeds, and placing in the oven on a baking sheet at around 400 degrees F.

How to Peel and Cut a Butternut Squash

1. Using a heavy chef’s knife, cut off 1/4 – 1/2 inch from the top of the squash at the stem end.


2. Cut off about 1/2 inch from the bottom of the squash. 

3. Use a sharp vegetable peeler to remove the skin from the squash. *If you do not have a sharp peeler, you can go to the next step and cut the squash in half. Then, use the knife to slice off the peel while standing each squash up vertically.  


4. Lay the squash on its side and cut it in half at the neck where the squash begins to curve.


5. Place each squash half on its flat end and cut in half vertically. You should end up with 4 squash quarters. Using a spoon, scrape out the seeds.


6. Lay the flat side of each squash quarter on the cutting board and cut into 1/2 – 1 inch slices. Repeat with each squash quarter.


7. Cut the slices crosswise into cubes. The smaller the pieces, the faster they will cook. 

RECIPE: Holiday Roasted Butternut Squash

Serving Size – Serves 6, ¾ cup per serving

Ingredients

• 2 pounds butternut squash

• ¼ cup walnuts

• 2 tablespoons canola oil

• 1 teaspoon dried sage

• ¼ teaspoon salt

• ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

• 1 tablespoon butter or canola oil

• ¼ cup dried cranberries

• 1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup

 

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Rinse and peel squash. Cut off ends and discard. Cut squash at the neck, creating a narrow end and a round end. Cut round end in half and scoop out seeds with a spoon. Cut both ends into ¾-inch, even-sized cubes.

3. Coarsely chop walnuts. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, add squash. Toss with oil, sage, salt, and ground black pepper.

5. Spread squash evenly on a baking sheet. Roast, stirring once until tender, about 35 minutes.

6. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter or heat oil. Add walnuts and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in cranberries and maple syrup.

7. Gently toss cooked squash with cranberry mixture.

References

Winter squash. United States Department of Agriculture website. Updated November 8, 2017. Accessed November 9, 2017. 

Swartzendruber K. Enjoy the taste and health benefits of winter squash. Michigan State University Extension website. Published September 24, 2012. Accessed November 9, 2017.

How to peel and cut a butternut squash. Gimme Some Oven website. Published November 29, 2016. Accessed November 9, 2017.

Lucarelli K. Holiday roasted butternut squash. Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters website. Accessed November 9, 2017.

Annual produce & protein distribution: By the numbers

Onions and sweet potatoes line the racks of Foodlink’s distribution center in early November.

Each year, Foodlink provides a free holiday produce and protein distribution to about 100 local emergency food providers. Our warehouse is filling up with mountains of hearty, fall produce and we’re ready to start delivering orders. 

Here’s a breakdown of what we’ll be distributing throughout November and December to 110 pantries and soup kitchens in our service area:

PROTEIN

  • 23,233 roaster chickens

PRODUCE

  • 17,549 bags of apples
  • 18,055 bags of onions
  • 18,328 bags of potatoes
  • 13,840 bags of sweet potatoes
  • 1,825 cases of squash