Foodlink celebrates ‘Seed Grant’ winners in Rochester

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

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

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

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


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

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

Pat Standish, Community Action for Wyoming County:

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

Cindy Kiel, Warsaw Food Pantry:

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


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

Irshad Altheimer, Barakah Muslim Charity:

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


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

Dawn Rockefeller, Victor Farmington Food Cupboard:

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


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

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

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


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

Kelly Sperduto, Greece Central School District:

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


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

Lauren Caruso, TapRoot Collective:

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

Foodlink joins Partnership for a Healthier America


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foodlink, RIT announce new partnership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTOS: Monday’s conference at MCC

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Exploring Upstate blog: Recap of the event

Photos: Facebook album

The Cracker Factory at 35 Lehigh St. in Geneva.

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

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

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

We couldn’t agree more!


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.”