If Music Be the Food Director Carol Rodland accepts a plaque and flowers from Foodlink as an appreciation for eight years of support.
Last night, Foodlink said goodbye (she promises to visit!) and good luck (not like she needs it!) to Carol Rodland of the Eastman School of Music.
Rodland has accepted a position at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City and is moving in a matter of weeks.
She holds a special place in our hearts because she is the founder of If Music Be the Food, a concert series that aims to raise awareness for food insecurity in the Rochester area. Attendees are asked to bring non-perishable items and/or a donation to support Foodlink and are treated to an evening of great music from some of the area’s finest musicians. The event is held three times each year, with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (October & April) and Third Presbyterian Church (January) serving as the venues.
Rodland started the event in 2009, and it has since spread to other cities to support other food banks and nonprofit organizations. In eight years, she has rallied the Rochester community to give $25,000 and 7,000 pounds of food to Foodlink!
Foodlink presented Rodland, a violist, with a bouquet of flowers and a plaque to honor her for the work she’s done to support Foodlink during her time in Rochester.
She says the series will continue under the direction of fellow Eastman professor and cellist Mimi Hwang. The next concert is scheduled for Oct. 22, 2017 at St. Paul’s and Rodland said she was putting in on her calendar so she could make a special guest appearance.
Best of luck with the move, and with your new life in NYC! Rochester will miss you!
A view of the crowd and the church at the April 30 If Music Be the Food concert at St. Paul’s.
The Lexington Avenue Urban Farm provides gardening space for more than 60 Rochester families — many of whom are refugees from Nepal, Somalia or Bhutan.
Foodlink was one of 36 organizations across the state to earn a 2017 Community Health Award from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.
The support, totaling $4,000, will help Foodlink create a safe and inviting play space adjacent to its Lexington Avenue Urban Farm in northwest Rochester. The farm, which began in 2012, primarily serves the local refugee community with more than 60 families expected to participate this year. There are dozens of raised beds, a 72-foot hoop house, fruit trees, bees and field beds. Many families visit the garden, so the goal of the project was to create a space for children to play while their family members tended to the garden. The area also will be open to children who don’t visit the garden, in an effort to cultivate a better sense of community between refugees and non-refugees in the Edgerton and Lyell-Otis neighborhoods.
Nine Monroe County nonprofits won 2017 Community Health Awards totaling $27,500.
Foodlink intends to seek input from the community, the gardeners, as well as Common Ground Health’s Healthi Kids Coalition, which aims to — among other things — create a more “playable” Rochester for our children.
The awards were announced April 20 at the Boys & Girls Club of Rochester. The club will use its $4,000 award to continue a new initiative to help students who have experienced childhood trauma. Two children who visit the Boys & Girls Club on Genesee Street attended the news conference, including Sylvester Carter III, whose mother was fatally shot last year. Carter, 14, gave a measured and eloquent speech about how the tragedy has affected his family and how the club helps him cope with the loss.
He described his mother as “caring” and someone who would give him “all she ever had.”
“I can’t see that smile no more. I can’t hear her voice no more,” Carter said. “That’s why I thank the Boys & Girls Club. I can come here and get my mind off things, be with my friends, talk … all that pain and suffering is gone. I come here because they give me comfort.”
In total, $110,500 in funds were allocated to the 36 award winners out of approximately 200 applicants in a 31-county upstate region. The other winners from Monroe County who were honored Thursday include: Borinquen Dance Theatre, Inc., Child Care Council, Inc., Mental Health Association, RESOLVE of Greater Rochester, Samaritan Center of Excellence, Spiritus Christi Prison Outreach Prison Outreach and Willow Domestic Violence Center.
Sylvester Carter III, who frequents the Boys & Girls Club, talks about losing his mother to gun violence last year and how the club has helped him cope with tragedy. (Credit: Excellus BCBS)
A panel discussion about food access, SNAP and other hunger- and health-related issues in the Rochester area.
A decade ago, the theme of Foodlink’s Community Food Conference would have undoubtedly been different.
More food? Infrastructure improvements? Attracting volunteers and donors? Yes, yes and yes.
These days, however, we’re covering those topics while devoting a significant amount of attention to health and nutrition. It’s vital to understand how the emergency food system and health care system intersect.
Executive Director Julia Tedesco gave the conference’s opening remarks and offered a famous food-related quote on which the audience could reflect.
“The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison.”
Executive Director Julia Tedesco welcomes agencies to Foodlink for the 2017 Community Food Conference on April 12.
Dr. Steve Cook, a pediatrician & internist at UR Medicine — and an expert on obesity — spoke about the research he’s done that shows how healthy food access relates to obesity, which he emphasized as a disease with multiple physical and physiological factors, rather than simply a weight issue.
A telling visual of food access in the City of Rochester was showed on a map of the city, with banana icons representing grocery stores and produce vendors, and french fry icons that represented fast food and corner stores. The fries won. By a lot.
Dr. Steve Cook delivers the keynote address on April 12.
Wednesday marked the second of three conferences Foodlink is hosting as a means of bringing its network of member agencies together to network, learn best practices, and share our successes and challenges. Foodlink has a network of nearly 500 agencies throughout its service area — those that offer emergency (food pantries, soup kitchens, etc.) and non-emergency (day cares, senior centers, etc.) food service.
After Dr. Cook’s presentation, a panel discussion followed. Panelists included Dr. Cook, Foodlink’s Mitch Gruber (Chief Programs Officer), Eat Smart New York’s Maggie Barone-McHugh and Pamela Johnson, a Nutrition Outreach amd Education Program (NOEP) coordinator with the Monroe County Legal Assistance Center.
Agency representatives also signed up for a pair of breakout sessions. Topics included: Improving Nutrition, Stretching your Budget, Food Safety, Agency Best Practices, Managing Finances, Succession Planning, Connecting with Public Health, and Fundraising.
The day concludes with a series of round-tables, where agencies can learn about various Foodlink programs, such as the Curbside Market, our Enabled Agencies program, and are various Nutrition Education options. Attendees were also given a tour of Foodlink’s new Community Kitchen.
With two down and one to go, it’s been tremendous experience gathering so many like-minded organizations and kind-hearted people together for a talk about our community needs and how we can address them in an effective and dignified manner.
Foodlink can’t achieve our goals without a strong network.
They know that and we know that. And we’re grateful for everything they do.
VIDEOS: Below are two videos prepared for the conference that offer a sneak peak at what our agencies do for those in need.
Apples collect in a tray after being washed in Foodlink’s Value-Added Processing Center.
For the Foodlinkers hard at work inside our new Value-Added Processing Center, it seems they’ll now have to get a decent shoulder workout elsewhere.
Gone are the days of using a manual apple slicer, which required a forceful pull-down of a large, metal contraption that sliced two apples at at time, which barely yielded one case of apple slices per hour. Now, the automated line is up and running and Foodlink is slicing apples like never before.
“The joy of seeing kids eating apples that would normally be thrown away because they weren’t sliced is beyond amazing,” said Moses Ulom, Foodlink’s VAP Supervisor. “Hey, if the kids love it, then we love it too!”
The old way we sliced apples …
In 2012, Foodlink founder Tom Ferraro was approached with two apple-related issues. (1) There were kids in Wayne County schools that were eating Washington State apples. This made little sense, due to the fact that Wayne County is among the top apple-producing counties in the nation; and (2) A Cornell University study showed that children were much more likely to eat a sliced apple than a whole one if it was served to them at school. Simply put: Apple slices ended up in bellies. Whole apples ended up in trash cans.
Armed with this data, Ferraro agreed to take the idea and run with it. Foodlink’s apple-slicing operation, known as Value-Added Processing (VAP), began.
The program showed promising growth through the first few years. Last fiscal year, Foodlink sliced and distributed more than 50,000 pounds of apples. The slices are sold to two area distributors, which then provide them to local schools.
“After planning and talking about this apple line for a year and a half, it’s incredible to see it come to life,” said Terra Keller, Foodlink’s Chief Operating Officer. “It’s a key piece to our Community Kitchen, and one that will grow to meet the needs of our community. We look forward to collaborating with more distributors so we can send even more local apples into our local schools.”
With Foodlink’s new equipment up and running, expect numbers to increase as more partnerships are secured with distributors. Foodlink also intends to distribute sliced apples to its member agencies, as well as offer them to the Summer Meals and Curbside Market programs. As apples catch on, our VAP Center also intends to process other produce options, such as diced butternut squash, and carrot and cucumber coins.
In the first couple days of production, Foodlink’s VAP center produced 43 cases in roughly 8 hours of work. With the old method, that would have taken 43 hours — not to mention some sore shoulders.
“We started slicing apples using the hand corer, which wasn’t designed for mass production,” Ulom said. “It got even tougher as the demand for sliced apples began to increase daily. We explored many options, but none of them were efficient enough to help us accomplish our objectives. Thanks to our generous donors, Foodlink is now able to provide kids with more nutritious and delicious snacks to keep them healthy.”
The apple line is fairly complex, and incredibly long. From the apple bin to the bagger, it measures 86 feet with a few twists and turns along the way. From start to finish, here are the 10 main steps:
It’s an amazing addition to Foodlink’s Community Kitchen, and certainly a dream come true for Moses and his colleagues. Getting more nutritious snacks in front of kids is essential to building a healthy, hunger-free community.
The apples take a quick bath in citric acid to prevent browning before they are sorted into bags.
The Perfect Granola made its first donation to Foodlink on Friday.
What a Perfect end to the week.
On Friday, Foodlink received a donation of 210 cases of The Perfect Granola, a rapidly growing company that was “created on the foundation of giving back.”
Owner Michele Liddle has taken her homemade recipes from her kitchen in Victor to more than 500 retail locations — including Wegmans — in six states. Her company is growing fast, but this isn’t a money-making venture.
“Our profits go to homeless shelters, outreach centers, and addiction clinics and we’re so happy to be able to make a donation to Foodlink,” Liddle said.
Other local nonprofits and organizations that have benefitted from The Perfect Granola’s generosity include Teen Challenge, ROCovery Fitness, Open Door Mission, House of Mercy, Western NY Hop Project and the YMCA.
Liddle, a mother of two girls, is showing them what it takes to set goals and reach them.
“We really wanted to do something to show our girls what you could do if you have an idea. You can actually take it from conception to reality — it’s really exciting.”
(2) Hit us up on Twitter with a question … use #NNM17 and tag @foodlinkny.
(3) Email our Nutrition Education Manager, Alyssa, at email@example.com.
One of our educators will field your question and give you a detailed response within days. Plus, we’ll compile some of the most interesting questions in a video Q&A, which we’ll share on our social media channels toward the end of the month.
Want an example? Here’s one question that came in, and the answer provided by one of our Finger Lakes Eat Smart New York educators, Laura Held:
Q: What are the main health benefits of going vegan? Are there any major nutritional drawbacks?
A: Hello! Technically, veganism is actually an ethical philosophy, not just a diet. Being vegan, essentially, means to exclude any animal products from your life — as much as possible. So, for example, vegans do not purchase leather, wool, or silk goods, in addition to not eating meat, dairy, eggs, honey, gelatin, and anything else from an animal source. Veganism is a lifestyle choice for those who do not believe it is necessary for humans to utilize animals for human needs, and that as much as possible, one should avoid doing so. For more information on being vegan and the myriad choices that a vegan makes about what to purchase, wear, or eat, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veganism
That being said, there are many people these days who refer to themselves as vegan, who are following a vegan diet or close to a vegan diet, who may not follow the rest of the vegan lifestyle. And that is what our questioner was really asking about. The more appropriate terminology for this diet is to call it a “plant-based diet.” A plant-based diet could, for example, include honey and maybe gelatin, as the main point of a plant-based diet is to avoid meat, dairy, and eggs, and not necessarily (although it may!) avoiding substances that are derived from animals. There are numerous reasons why someone may choose to eat a plant-based diet. It may include the ethical reasons listed above. It also may include environmental considerations. And it likely includes concerns for one’s health.
To eat a plant-based diet healthfully, one must make sure to get enough protein (examples: legumes, nuts and seeds, tofu/soy and soy products, some whole grains like quinoa), calcium (examples: fortified non-dairy equivalents like soy milk or almond milk, fortified orange juice, dark leafy greens, nutritional supplements), vitamin D (examples: fortified non-dairy equivalents like soy milk or almond milk, fortified orange juice, nutritional supplements), and iron (examples: dark leafy greens, legumes, nuts and seeds, some whole grains). It is also important to get enough Omega-3 fatty acids(examples: flaxseed, flaxseed oil, walnuts, hemp seeds, seaweed).
Other than that, one must simply eat a well-balanced diet and one will get all of their nutritional needs met — except for one critical nutrient: B12. There is no naturally occurring B12 found in non-animal products. B12 is a critical nutrient for our brain function and formation of red blood cells. But this is easily remedied. B12 is fortified in breakfast cereals and other food products. There are a variety of nutritional supplements. And there is a product called “nutritional yeast” which can be used as a cheese-like flaky topping or can be utilized in cooking numerous foods to create a cheese-y quality. The required daily intake for B12 is quite minimal, but anyone on a plant-based diet should be sure to inform their doctor and have their B12 level tested as regularly as the doctor suggests in order to ensure that they are never too low on this critical nutrient. It is also recommended to have your vitamin D levels tested, especially if you live in Rochester, where we don’t have enough access to the sun to naturally boost our vitamin D levels.
During AmeriCorps Week, we’d like to spotlight the three AmeriCorps members who have made their mark at Foodlink within the past year.
Foodlink hosts AmeriCorps members each year to help with their nutrition education (through Cooking Matters) and food access (through the Curbside Market, Urban Farm Stands and Garden Project) programs throughout its service area. Saharra Malloy and Heidi Riegel joined our Cooking Matters team in November, while Eric Lintala began as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in August.
Cooking Matters is one of Foodlink’s three main Nutrition Education programs. It helps families shop for and cook healthy meals on a budget, as part of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. Throughout the year, AmeriCorps members coordinate Cooking Matters courses for kids, teens, families and parents throughout Rochester. On any given day, they are organizing cooking equipment and supplies, planning lessons, shopping for food for recipes and helping to teach the courses with a team of volunteers.
Saharra grew up in Rochester and has a passion for the culinary arts. She recently helped to carry out a Cooking Matters at the Store event in Rochester as part of National Nutrition Month, reaching over 65 people to show them simple ways to eat healthier on a budget while shopping at a grocery store. Seeing as she loves to cook, she sees her term as an opportunity to explore a career in the culinary arts.
Heidi graduated from Roberts Wesleyan this past year and sees her term of service as an opportunity to connect with the participants in classes and expose them to new foods and ways of preparing healthy meals. She loves to introduce participants to new fruits and vegetables and to see their reactions when they realize they like them. Her hope is to take what she learns during her year of service and apply it toward a career in social work.
“Foodlink is so appreciative of the efforts of our AmeriCorps members, adding capacity to our programs and giving back in such a big way,” said Alyssa VanValkenburg, Foodlink’s Nutrition Education Manager.
Eric has made significant contributions at Foodlink in the last seven months with our food access team. One of his biggest undertakings was recruiting and managing dozens of volunteers for our Curbside Market program. He also planned and hosted a focus group with our most loyal volunteers in January. Eric also shoulders the social media responsibilities for Curbside, organizes plenty of data associated with our food access programs and has contributed to the success of numerous projects.
“Eric has been a crucial member of the team,” said Nathaniel Mich, Community Programs Coordinator at Foodlink. “He’s grown our Curbside and Urban Farm volunteer base, increased efficiencies across programs and cultivated new community partnerships. Thanks to Eric, our programs are stronger, smoother and more sustainable, with a clear path for continued growth.”
More than 80,000 Americans join AmeriCorps each year to tackle various issues and problems all across the country. They help with affordable housing, hunger, education, disaster relief, economic development and more. Members spend about three months to a year dedicated to a specific role.
More than 1 million people have served with AmeriCorps since 1994, and have contributed more than 1.4 billion hours of service. Last year, 21,600 sites hosted AmeriCorps members.
We weren’t quite as loud as the librarians (go figure), who seemed to arrive by the busload, but food banks around New York sent a loud and powerful message during their advocacy day Wednesday in Albany.
The Food Bank Association of New York State (FBANYS), along with partner agencies and the New York Farm Bureau, spent March 1 in Albany advocating for three main items to be (hopefully) including in the next state budget.
(1) Supporting the Farm to Food Bank bill, which provides tax credits (up to $5,000) for farmers who donate to food banks or other emergency food providers.
(2) An increase in Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) funding through the Department of Health.
(3) Supporting the governor’s proposed Food Desert Elimination Grant Program.
Assemblyman Phil Palmesano joins Sen. Rich Funke for a discussion about the Farm to Food Bank bill on March 1 in Albany.
The day began with a Facebook Live discussion with Sen. Rich Funke, though several other legislators dropped by to speak briefly and offer their support. Funke, who represents the 55th Senate District (parts of Monroe and Ontario counties), has co-sponsored the bill with Assemblyman Francisco Moya (Assembly District 30 in Queens).
“This legislation that we’ve put together has been wildly popular throughout the state,” said Funke, whose father was a vegetable farmer in Genesee County. “There are very few people outside of the governor who have been opposed to this. We’re hopeful this time around that it will pass, the governor will not veto it, he’ll approve it, and get it moving. We think it’s a win-win for farmers and certainly those impoverished people in our district.”
The FBANYS was supportive of the bill last year, and remains supportive as another attempt to pass it makes its way through the legislature and budget process.
“In my mind, this is a very smart bill, because that healthy food will help feed the healthy communities that the governor is looking to support in New York State’s budget this year,” said Anita Paley, FBANYS Executive Director.
About 6 billion pounds of produce goes unharvested each year in the United States.
Assemblyman Francisco Moya speaks with Randi Dresner of Island Harvest about the Farmt o Food Bank bill.
Food bankers also spoke with representatives about the benefits of HPNAP funding and how our partner agencies rely on this funding to purchase food or pay for rent, utilities or key pieces of equipment (freezers, coolers, etc.) The FBANYS would like to see funding increase to $51 million to help close the state’s meal gap, which currently sits at 472 million meals.
Finally, more than 656,000 New Yorkers meet the criteria of living in a food desert — a term used to describe a low-income area with limited access to a grocery store. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has included $1 million in his budget to help establish the Food Desert Elimination grant program, which would help non-profits (like ours) and others to create retail outlets in underserved communities.
Collectively, our group spoke with more than a dozen legislators. Foodlink met with the offices of: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (132nd), Assemblyman Joseph Giglio (148th), Sen. Tom O’Mara (58th), Sen. Pamela Helming (54th) and Assemblyman Bob Oaks (130th).
ROCHESTER – It’s time to “put your best fork forward.”
That’s the theme for this year’s celebration of National Nutrition Month, spearheaded by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics throughout the month of March. It’s also a time of year for Foodlink to promote the many ways its nutrition educators help improve the health and wellbeing of the Rochester community.
“Foodlink’s vision is a healthy, hunger-free community,” said Laura Sugarwala, Foodlink’s Senior Manager of Nutrition and Food Safety. “National Nutrition Month is a time for Foodlink and our partners to reinvigorate our commitment to increasing access to healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables. Nutritious food has the power to prevent disease, strengthen our bodies, and transform our lives.”
There are several events planned throughout the month to promote healthy eating, starting March 3 with another Cooking Matters at the Store tour at Price Rite (1230 University Ave.) At various stations around the store, Foodlink educators and other partner organizations teach shoppers about key food groups, how to read nutrition labels and how to shop healthy on a tight budget. MVP Health Care provides key support for the event, which will run between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Another Cooking Matters at the Store event is schedule March 18 at Andre’s Barbershop on Portland Avenue. Check out a full calendar of events, which includes many healthy, delicious recipes, at www.foodlinkny.org.
“Every day, Foodlink’s nutrition educators have the opportunity to go out into the community and empower folks of all ages to make healthier choices,” said Emma Denton, a Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables Educator at Foodlink. “Foodlink’s Cooking Matters, Eat Smart New York, and Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables programs support families and individuals in not only putting their best fork forward but to do so in a way that is affordable, convenient and delicious!”
It has been more than two months since Foodlink’s kitchen staff made the move from Joseph Avenue to its new Community Kitchen on Mt. Read Boulevard. This is a dream come true for the entire organization, but especially for the employees who get to work with the new equipment and space each day. It has completely revolutionized the way we prepare food for this community.
Foodlink’s Value-Added Processing Supervisor, Moses Ulom, chatted with a few of his colleagues about the new space and what it has meant for their daily routine. The staff was happy to share their experiences since move-in day in December. Here’s what they had to say:
Josh Orsini, Prep Cook
“The new ovens are amazing; they have definitely enhanced the way we prep meals,” Orsini said. “Imagine cooking 1,600 pieces of chicken in one oven in a small amount of time and still maintaining the right texture and taste. It gives me joy to know the kids are receiving good quality food.”
Prep Cook Josh Orsini.
Andrae Lenear, Production Supervisor
“What I love about the new kitchen is the setup, with regards to the flow of food and staff. The white walls represent everything clean and ready to eat. While the orange walls represent any unwashed products. This system helps the staff to know what hallway to use when transporting ready-to-eat meals or unwashed products. It also shows how serious Foodlink cares about food safety and providing the highest quality of products.”
Production Supervisor Andrae Lenear.
Jarques Fitts, Expediting Supervisor
“The fact I could load up 20 pans in one oven, to me, is a milestone. When it comes to what these ovens can do is beyond description. For example, I could cook, bake, and roast chicken with the same oven and still achieve an incredible outcome. To crown it all, these ovens are self cleaning. That makes my job much easier.”
Expediting Supervisor Jarques Fitts.
Mary Cook, Prep Cook
“What I love most about the kitchen is the three-compartment stainless tables and working space. Having the space and the tables makes it easier for me to set up my work station without interfering with the kitchen traffic. For example, my team and I could lay out all the ingredients, condiments, and pans without running out of space or colliding with each other.”
Prep Cook Mary Cook.
Cornelio Edwards, Prep Cook
“I love using the tilt kettles and pots. I like how they are set up next to each other. We could have four people working on different meals at the same time. We could make more than 1,000 meals in less than 2 hours. This has cut production time in half. So, when it comes to mass production, I would say we are on the right track.”