Foodlink, anti-hunger advocates react to House Farm Bill

On Thursday, the long-awaited House Farm Bill, entitled the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, was released by House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX). As expected, the House’s version of this vital piece of legislation, which typically is reauthorized every five years, took aim at cutting and restructuring the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called food stamps.

Key changes include aggressive new work requirements imposed on low-income households, eligibility changes that would remove approximately 1 million Americans from the program, and funding for job training programs that cannot adequately meet the need of those they intend to benefit. Below is a well-written piece from the Washington Post that captures both sides of the debate:

Washington Post: GOP proposes stricter work requirements for food stamp recipients, a step toward a major overhaul of the social safety net

Below is a statement from Foodlink Executive Director Julia Tedesco in response to the proposed legislation:

“The House Farm Bill released Thursday, which includes unnecessary and cruel changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, will strip vital food assistance away from millions of food-insecure individuals and families, including thousands in the Rochester region. SNAP is our country’s preeminent anti-hunger and anti-poverty program. For every meal that our nationwide network of food banks provides, SNAP provides 12 more. The restrictive work requirements proposed in this legislation will ironically harm countless working families, and reduce or eliminate assistance to vulnerable populations, such as seniors and those who experience significant barriers to employment.

In drafting this legislation without input from their Democratic colleagues, House Republicans also failed to learn from past mistakes regarding work-requirement policies for programs such as TANF, and chose to ignore active, ongoing studies to explore the efficacy of this very issue. Foodlink is supportive of increased financial support for job-training programs aimed at lifting people out of poverty. The funding allocated for states to implement these programs, however, falls well short of what is required to ensure people obtain meaningful job-training skills. 

We are hopeful that the Senate will take a more dignified, research-based and bipartisan approach to this legislation, which has far-reaching implications on those who struggle daily to put food on the table. Rochester-area families deserve a Farm Bill that strengthens SNAP, and supports the tenet that food is a basic human right, and nobody in this country of abundance should go hungry.” 

CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE: Urge them to oppose the House Farm Bill

Myriad anti-hunger advocates and organizations have condemned this proposal. Here is a sampling of reaction throughout the country, and links to their complete statements:

  • Feeding America, the national network of food banks and the nation’s largest domestic anti-hunger relief organization.

“The inescapable reality is that SNAP cuts would have a boat-swamping effect on our network, and changes of this magnitude to an efficient and sound program would set the fight against hunger back in communities across our country.” – Matt Knott, President


“The proposals in this bill would lead to greater hunger and poverty among all types of beneficiary families, including the working poor, as well as reduced economic growth and productivity in communities across the country.” – Jim Weill, President


“The bottom line is this farm bill will make hunger worse in America. This farm bill does not represent my values or the values of the people I represent. America’s farmers and the American people deserve so much better.”


“… in the more than 40 years that I have been working on issues related to low-income assistance programs and work, these are among the most poorly designed work-related proposals that I’ve seen at any time.” – Bob Greenstein, CBPP President


  • MAZON, a national advocacy organization working to end hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds

“U.S. House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway and his Republican colleagues want to reclassify SNAP as a workforce development program in an ideologically driven bid to vilify the poor and kick people off the program.” – Abby J. Leibman, President & CEO


Cocktails for a cause: ‘Pair and share’ event raises funds for Foodlink

The bar at Branca Midtown, which is offering a “BBQ Old Fashioned” drink to patrons in support of Foodlink.

Throughout the month of April, the gracious folks at Woodford Reserve (a brand of Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey) have linked up with some outstanding local restaurants and bars for what they are calling a “Pair and Share” fundraiser. 

For every designated Woodford cocktail sold at participating establishments for the month of April, Woodford Reserve will donate $1 to Foodlink — up to $5,000. 

Below is the list of participating places, and the specialty cocktails they are offering:

Cocktail: “Why Bother” (Woodford Rye, pomegranate liqueur, grapefruit juice, cava)

Cocktail: “Run Rabbit Run” (Woodford Rye, amaro, green apple liqueur)

Cocktail: “The Villager” (Woodford Reserve, Grand Marnier, sweet vermouth, black walnut butters)

Cocktail: “BBQ Old Fashioned” (Woodford Reserve, BBQ seasonings)

Cocktail: “As Luck Wood Have It” (Woodford Reserve, rosemary, almond, lime)

Cocktail: “Woodford Palmer” (Woodford Reserve, lemonade, iced tea)

Cocktail: “The Colonel” (Woodford Reserve, Amaro Nonino, sweet basil, black tea, lemon)

Cocktail: Boulevardier (Woodford Reserve, sweet vermouth, Campari)



Blaze Pizza celebrates new store in Henrietta, pledges Grand Opening sales to Foodlink!

The Blaze Pizza promotional flyer, promoting its Grand Opening campaign with Foodlink.

Order some pizza. Name your price. Support Foodlink. (Then eat the pizza.)

Pretty simple, right?

Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza has announced the Grand Opening celebration of its new Henrietta store, and has graciously selected Foodlink as the local beneficiary for its “Donation Day” event.

Blaze Pizza is a community-minded organization that makes it a point to support local organizations that work diligently to better the lives of their neighbors. As part of its ongoing commitment to the Monroe County community, Blaze Pizza (1100 Jefferson Road) will host a Donation Day from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 11. During that time, guests will be able to pay whatever they’d like for their meal, and 100 percent of proceeds will be donated to Foodlink. 

FACEBOOK: Event page for Blaze Pizza ‘Donation Day’

“Blaze Pizza is so excited to welcome the public to our restaurant to support Foodlink. Foodlink is a fantastic organization that distributed 17.4 million pounds of food in 2017, and we’re proud to help them continue that great work,” said Chad Tooley, general manager of Blaze Pizza in Henrietta. “This Donation Day will give our new neighbors in Henrietta the opportunity to experience our delicious menu while giving back to a good cause. It’s sure to be a great day, and we encourage members of the community to stop by to enjoy a great meal and show their support.”

Blaze Pizza is known for its custom-built artisanal pizzas, freshly made salads, blood orange lemonade and s’more pies since it opened its first location in 2012. Each restaurant features an interactive open-kitchen format that allows guests to customize one of the menu’s signature pizzas or create their own, choosing from a wide selection of carefully sourced, high-quality ingredients – all for around $8. The 11-inch pizzas are then sent to a blazing hot open-flame oven – the centerpiece of the restaurant – where dedicated “pizzasmiths” ensure that the thin-crust pies are fast-fire’d and ready to eat in just 180 seconds.

There are now 265 restaurants in 40 states, Canada and Kuwait. Founded by Elise and Rick Wetzel (co-founder of Wetzel’s Pretzels), the concept is backed by private equity firm Brentwood Associates and founding investors that include LeBron James, Maria Shriver, movie producer John Davis and Boston Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner.

The Henrietta restaurant, which opened in March, is located at 1100 Jefferson Road. At least one Foodlink representative will be stationed there all day on the 11th, so stop in, say hi, grab some delicious pizza and support Foodlink!

Remembering Karen Leipold, volunteer extraordinaire

The Leipold sisters, Debbie (left) and Karen, started volunteering regularly at Foodlink in 2014.

It is with a heavy heart that we share the news of the passing of Karen Leipold, one of Foodlink’s most loyal volunteers, who passed away late last week.

Karen and her sister, Debbie, have been mainstays at Foodlink since 2014. The Leipold sisters have helped stuff envelopes with acknowledgement letters for the Development Department and filed invoices for our Operations team, among other tasks. They kept impeccably precise notes of their time here on colorful, lined paper, which is how we know they volunteered here 268 times, totaling 574 hours, since April of 2014!

>> Read the obituary for Karen M. Leipold

Occasionally they would leave behind some baked goods or other treats, and a kind note (like the one below) expressing admiration for the work we do. The feeling was mutual.

“Foodlink is forever grateful for time that Karen spent with us over the course of the last four years,” said Heather Newton, Foodlink’s Director of Development. “All of our volunteers are special, but Karen was exceptional. Our staff will always remember her smile, her altruism and dedication to helping us fulfill our mission.”

A portion of her obituary reads:

“She was an avid reader, volunteer at Foodlink, 52 year member of O.E.S. & served as Matron 3 times DDGM in 1992. Active in constantly sending cards & uplifting letters. Without legs for 16 years, was never held back. She was a true inspiration.

Family will receive friends 5 – 7 PM Thursday, April 5, 2018 at New Comer Cremations & Funerals, 2636 Ridgeway Avenue.”

On the eve of Volunteer Appreciation Month, we cannot think of a more dedicated pair of volunteers than the Leipolds. There are thousands of volunteers that enter our doors every year — including dozens who visit us multiple times per week and feel as though they’ve become part of our staff. 

Karen was like that, too. She was one of us, and we’ll always remember her service. 

Foodlink welcomes author Andy Fisher, ‘Social Purpose Grocery’ experts to Rochester

Author and activist Andy Fisher speaks during a panel discussion at Three Heads Brewing in Rochester on March 21.

Andy Fisher, long-time anti-hunger advocate, activist and author of “Big Hunger,” visited Rochester on March 21, spending the day with Foodlink and offering his critique of — and solutions for — the emergency food system. 

In his book, which was released in 2017, Fisher argues that the current model of food banking is too reliant on charitable giving, and too intertwined with corporate interests. He says food banks need to stop measuring their successes on “people and pounds,” and need to figure out upstream solutions to “shorten the line,” rather than “feed the need.”

One innovative proposal, called Social Purpose Grocery (SPG), was folded into the discussion when Foodlink invited two consultants from the Toronto-based firm, Mushroom Cloud, down to join Andy for the day. Daniel Bernhard and George Carothers have done extensive research on how food banks and non-profit organizations need to enter the world of food retail and help food-insecure families maximize their assets and stretch their food dollars. 

The day began with Fisher speaking with Foodlink staff for over an hour about his book, Foodlink’s programs, and other nonprofits that have developed innovative initiatives to target the root causes of hunger. 

>> Facebook: Video highlights from the event

A tour of Foodlink’s Community Kitchen.

Next, after Bernhard and Carothers arrived, Executive Director Julia Tedesco led a tour of Foodlink’s Community Kitchen. The group learned about Foodlink’s Value-Added Processing operations, and our soon-to-launch workforce development program, before breaking for lunch.

Shortly before 1 p.m., it was off to the WXXI studio, where Fisher, Bernhard, Carothers and Chief Programs Officer Mitch Gruber were guests on Connections. Fisher’s book, SPGs and Foodlink’s Curbside Market were all discussed during the hour-long program, entitled: “Why haven’t we solved America’s hunger problem? (Listen to the replay here.)

The group chats before the start of “Connections” on WXXI on March 21.

Finally, after a little bit of down time, Foodlink hosted a panel discussion with our guests at Three Heads Brewing called “Beyond Charity: Ideas to transform our broken food system.”

>> Facebook: Photo album from the event

Here are a few highlights from the discussion:

Andy Fisher on hunger: “Hunger is a symptom of a deeper problem — it’s a symptom of poverty. It’s not a matter of whether there is enough food in this country, it’s a matter of whether people have enough resources to buy that food. Poverty itself is obviously linked to make other structural issues, whether it be racism, sexism or a bad educational system … hunger is kind of a double-edged sword. It mobilizes people, but it also leads people toward shallow solutions. It leads people toward charity.”

Andy Fisher on charity: “… most people think, “Oh, the solution is food.” But that charity approach is not dignified, it’s disempowering, it can be degrading and unsustainable and it’s certainly not just. Charity is what society does when there is no justice.”

Daniel Bernhard on SPGs: “What we wanted to do was, start — not from a position of deficit and say, what are people missing? — We wanted to start by saying, “What have they got?” The $6.5 billion that food-insecure people in Canada spend on food every year is much, much bigger than the $1.7 (billion) that they’re missing. So our question was, instead of trying to fill that 1.7 billion-hole with charity that is unreliable, and unjust, and may not be nutritious and has all sorts of other problems and basically provides this garbage can to the commercial food sector that allows it to pay low wages and still look great, how can we take what people actually have and stretch it out?”

Andy Fisher on food banking: “I think of food bankers as good people trapped in a bad system. Food bankers talk about two different paradigms. One is ‘feeding the need’ — in other words, trying to pump through enough food to meet the needs of people who come to their door. And the other approach is ‘shortening the line.’ How do you reduce the number of people in poverty who are showing up to your door in the first place?”

Daniel Bernhard on charity: “It’s not stable … you can’t depend on it. When the economy is bad, people are least equipped to donate, and that’s when you need it the most. So it’s a difficult model. If you define people by what they lack, they just become passive recipients of service, and that’s not dignified, that’s not functional and it’s not sustainable and it will never, ever work to scale.”

Mitch Gruber on the future of food banking: “Food banks need to be drivers of community and economic development. I actually don’t think that food banks need to become obsolete, I would say we just need to be able to shift our operations significantly.” 

From left, Julia Tedesco, Andy Fisher, Daniel Bernhard and Mitch Gruber, take part in a panel discussion at Three Heads Brewing called: “Beyond Charity: Ideas to transform our broken food system.”

Goya’s ‘Can Do’ campaign delivers large donation to Foodlink

A Goya Foods truck pulls into Foodlink’s distribution center on Monday, March 19, 2018.

A truckload of products from Goya Foods arrived at Foodlink’s distribution center on Monday, a large donation earmarked as part of the company’s “Can Do” campaign in partnership with Feeding America. 

The donation totaled 34,580 pounds, which is the equivalent to nearly 29,000 meals. It was made in the name of Goya retailer, Tops Friendly Markets, as part of the first installment of the 1.5 million pounds of food (1.25 million meals) raised over the course of six months that will go to Feeding America and distributed to local food banks across the country.

“We’re incredibly grateful to receive this donation from Goya,” said Foodlink Executive Director Julia Tedesco. “Through our network of dedicated partner agencies, Foodlink will ensure this food ends up on the tables of thousands of food-insecure individuals and families throughout our region who rely on the emergency food system.”

Representatives from Foodlink, Tops Friendly Markets and Goya Foods pose for a photo after the delivery was made.

More than 20 types of Goya products arrived, including numerous types of rice and beans, tomato sauce, peas and vienna sausage. Foodlink is always looking to diversify the products it offers to its member agencies that serve the need in their communities. An array of ethnically diverse foods was a welcomed sight for our staff.  

Goya’s ‘Can Do’ campaign is a yearlong series of consumer product promotions that was launched in June 2017 and ends June 2018. Each month throughout the course of the year, Goya has featured a different product that consumers can purchase to participate in the overall donation. For every GOYA® product purchased during the designated month, Goya will donate additional products to Feeding America.

Founded in 1936, Goya Foods, Inc. is America’s largest Hispanic-owned food company.

A few of the pallets of donated Goya products that were delivered to Foodlink on March 19.

Foodlink, fellow food bankers make advocacy trip to Albany

Food bankers from across the state assembled in Albany on March 13 to speak with legislators about their priorities for the upcoming budget.

Two representatives from Foodlink made the trip to Albany on March 13 to join fellow food bankers and other community partners to discuss legislation and anti-hunger priorities for the next state budget.

Foodlink’s Mark Dwyer and Meg Demment met with the offices of: Assemblyman David DiPietro (147th District, which includes Wyoming County), Assemblyman Harry Bronson (138th District, which includes parts of Rochester and Monroe County), Senator Pamela Helming (54th District, which includes parts of Wayne, Monroe, Ontario and Seneca counties), and Senator Rich Funke (55th District, which includes parts of Monroe and Ontario counties).

Food bankers from the Southern Tier, Long Island, New York City, Central NY and Western NY joined Foodlink for the trip, which was organized by our Food Bank Association of New York State. Our main priorities included: 

  • Support of the Food Rescue and Recycling Act, which would require large food waste generators (2,000+ lbs per week) to donate edible food, and compost and send inedible food to an anaerobic digestor. 
  • Support for the governor’s No Student Goes Hungry proposal, which includes a ban on lunch-shaming, expansion of the Farm-to-School program, establishing Breakfast After the Bell policy at high-need schools, increasing the school meal reimbursement rate for districts who emphasize local ingredients, and the establishment of food pantries at SUNY and CUNY campuses. 
  • Request the reinstatement of COLA (Cost of Living Allowance) funding for the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program.

From left, Richard Schrader from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Mark Dwyer from Foodlink, Sen. Pamela Helming (54th District), and Meg Demment from Foodlink.

Snow storm impacts Foodlink programs and services

A few weather-related announcements, regarding the winter storm that’s hit our region on March 2:
(Updated at 7:40 a.m.)
– All of our food bank’s scheduled routes have been canceled (We had deliveries scheduled for Seneca and Wayne counties). We are working to reschedule them for next week.
– All Shop Thru agency appointments are canceled.
– The Curbside Market and Mobile Pantry stops scheduled for today are canceled.
– Volunteer shifts are canceled. 
– We’ve been told that today’s 2018 Forks and Skis event at Bristol Mountain, scheduled for Noon to 6 p.m. is still on. We’re encouraging people to stay safe and take their time getting there.
– Our kitchen is delivering to meal sites that remain open.
– Foodlink’s offices will remain open, should you need to get in touch with someone on our staff. We will be closing early at 3 p.m.
Thank you for your understanding, and please stay tuned for future announcements. 
Stay safe. 

Foodlink adds new truck to its kitchen fleet

It was an exciting day for Foodlink drivers, who watched as a brand new, 22-foot refrigerated box truck was dropped off at its Mt. Read Boulevard facility on Friday. 

The new truck, a 2018 HINO model 238, will add capacity to the fleet that serves the Foodlink Community Kitchen. Approximately half of Foodlink’s trucks serve the kitchen, while the other half pick up and distribute food for the food bank. 

Conway Beam Leasing custom-built the truck for Foodlink from the ground up. Fleet Manager David Dukes was eager to see the new vehicle, and wanted to recognize Conway’s Brandon Piccarreto, Leasing Representative, and Ed Dunlop, Western NY Director of Operations, for their help with this build.

The truck will hit the road on Monday, delivering meals produced by the Community Kitchen to meal sites at various after-school programs across Rochester. 


Bills’ ‘Tackle Hunger’ campaign yields 23,000 cans of soup for regional food banks

The long-awaited postseason appearance is what mattered most to local Bills’ fans this year. 

For local food banks, the regular season wasn’t bad, either. 

Thanks to another successful “Tackling Hunger with the Buffalo Bills” campaign, the team, in partnership with Tops Friendly Markets and Campbell’s Chunky soup, donated 23,040 cans of soup to the Food Bank of WNY, Foodlink, the Food Bank of CNY and the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. 

The Bills pledge to donate 20 cans for every tackle made … and the Bills’ defense racked up 1,016 during the regular season this year (20,320). To celebrate the great season the Bills had, Campbell’s added nearly 3,000 extra cans to the total. 

The soup delivery was made at the Food Bank of WNY’s distribution center on Feb. 16, and they will work with other food banks to deliver each share across the state. 

“Helping to eradicate hunger is a core part of our community mission at Tops,” said Frank Curci, Tops Markets chairman of the board and CEO.  “This program was a true partnership and it allowed us to move one step closer to that goal. I want to thank the Buffalo Bills and Campbell’s Soup Company for sharing that same mission.”

Food Bank of WNY staff welcome in the donation during a Feb. 16 event.