Venison Donation Coalition celebrates 18 years of feeding the hungry

Article written by Kathy Balbierer, for the New York Farm Bureau newsletter.

The Venison Donation Coalition has been feeding the hungry since its inception 18 years ago. It began in 1999 when Chemung and Steuben County sportsmen’s federations backed up the efforts of the Venison Donation Coalition with funds to pay two processors. Together, they distributed 1000 pounds of highly nutritious ground venison to those in need.

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Since that time, the Venison Donation Coalition has partnered with so many organizations and individuals that have made this program a huge success. The Venison Donation Coalition consists of representatives from sportsmen’s clubs, nonprofit organizations, regional food banks such as Foodlink and local food pantries — as well as local, state and federal agencies including the Farm Bureau, which aims to secure funding for the processing and distribution of venison to families in need. With the help of its partners, the Venison Donation Coalition secures funds to pay the meat processors for their services.

The program’s growth has been exciting. Since 1999, The Venison Donation Coalition has been highly successful in its goal to feed the hungry throughout New York State. Today eight regional food banks support the entire state with the distribution of the meat to those in need.

Through the generous donation of deer from the hunters and farmers, the Coalition has processed an average of 38 tons of venison each year and more than 4 million servings of highly nutritious meat has been served to individuals and children in need.

In 2015, the Venison Donation Coalition saw a very nice 20% increase in venison donation. It would be awesome to see at least that in 2016!

The Venison Donation Coalition is seeking additional support from farmers. Crop damage from deer is estimated at $58 million in New York State. If farmers will allow hunters to cull the deer on their property with the stipulation of the meat be donated to the program, it could be a win-win for all involved. Farmers will have reduced crop damage, hunters will have additional time out in the woods, and the food banks will have additional meat to distribute to those in need.

Here is a breakdown of hunting allowed on farms in New York State.

  • 6% allow NO hunting
  • 6% allow family members
  • 74% allow friends and neighbors
  • 6% allow strangers they thought trustworthy
  • 9% allow sportsmen’s clubs

Deer are best managed to acceptable levels through legal harvest during the fall and winter hunting seasons:

  • Populations are highest
  • Deer activity peaks
  • Fawns are weaned.

Fall harvest of antlerless deer, especially adult females, equates to 2-3 deer that won’t be in the crops during the next growing season. Farmers should require the removal of adult females at a rate of approximately 1 adult female per 25 acres of operation. For example, for a 500-acre parcel, remove 20 does if fewer deer are desired. Buck-only hunting does not reduce deer population or resultant damage. 

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) can provide the legal means, but individual management plans need to be implemented by the landowner. NYSDEC offers the following programs to landowners:

DMP (Deer Management Permit)

  • Issued to licensed deer hunters by lottery application
  • For use in select wildlife management units
  • Harvest antlerless deer only
  • Hunt during Open Season only
  • Hunter may obtain up to 4 tags

DMAP (Deer Management Assistance Program)

  • Biologists available to help implement site specific deer management programs
  • DEC issues a special permit and a determined number of deer tags to landowner
  • Permits can only be used by licensed hunters on landowner’s property
  • Harvest antlerless deer only
  • Hunt during Open Season only
  • Hunter may obtain 2 tags from landowner

DDP (Deer Damage (Nuisance) Permits)

  • Issued on a case by case basis to landowners with deer damage
  • Landowner issued a permit that may be assigned to agents
  • Harvest antlerless deer only
  • Hunt during growing season
  • Three to five carcass tags issued

HOW TO GET PERMITS:

Contact the local NYSDEC office for additional information and applications for the DMAP and DDP permits. Apply for DMP’s at license issuing town clerks and retail outlets in early August through October 1 each year.

Another way to support the program is to donate financially. One dollar will feed up to four people. Financial donations are appreciated and since the Venison Donation Coalition is a nonprofit organization, donations are tax deductible. For every dollar that is donated to the Venison Donation Coalition, $.90 is used towards processing the venison. With approximately 500,000 deer hunters in New York State, imagine if every one of them donates just $1 and/or a deer how successful the program could be.

Financial donations can be made at your Town Clerk’s office or anywhere hunting and fishing licenses are sold. Just inform the D.E.C.A.L.S. licensing agent that you wish to make a donation to support the Venison Donation Program. All donations through D.E.C.A.L.S. are deposited directly into the Venison Donation Fund. Donations can also be accepted through our secure website, www.venisondonation.org or send a check payable to: Venison Donation Coalition, Inc., 3 East Pulteney Sq., Bath, NY 14810.

Donation of deer is also appreciated. Any hunter or farmer interested in donating a deer, please call 866-862-DEER or visit the Venison Donation Coalition’s website (www.venisondaontion.org) to locate a processor near you. Please remember, you must call ahead before dropping off any deer for donation. All deer must be legally tagged and properly field dressed before taking in to a participating processor

Please help to keep the Venison Donation Coalition successful in your neighborhood. Donate today! One deer or one dollar goes a long way to help curb hunger throughout New York State.

Bank of America’s ‘Give a Meal’ program underway

If you’re thinking about making a donation to Foodlink during the holiday season, why not let Bank of America triple it?

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For the 5th consecutive year, the Feeding America network and Bank of America are joining forces to support the Give a Meal program, which aims to reduce food insecurity in local communities. You can help support Foodlink by donating between now and Dec. 31, 2016. For every $1 you donate, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation will give $2 more – a total donation of up to $1.5 million nationwide.

Donations can be made at www.bankofamerica.com/give. Donors have the option of donating to Feeding America, or typing in their zip code and allocating money directly to their local food bank. There is a $5 minimum donation and Bank of America will make their 2-for-1 match for donations up to $1,000.

About 1 in 8 people in Foodlink’s service area struggle with issues of food insecurity. Providing consistent access to food and support toward financial stability can be critical for families facing poverty. Bank of America, Foodlink and the Feeding America network are working together to ensure that families don’t have to choose between putting food on the table and paying vital bills.

“Foodlink aims to ensure that our neighbors in need are getting enough nourishment to live healthy, productive lives – especially during the holiday season,” said Foodlink Executive Director Julia Tedesco. “We’re incredibly grateful for Bank of America’s generosity and commitment toward this mission.”

Make a donation: And let Bank of America triple it!

 

Beverage giant Constellation Brands turns attention to food(link)

Constellation employees in Foodlink's distribution center on Monday.

Constellation employees in Foodlink’s distribution center on Monday.

Foodlink has a robust roster of volunteers that help us achieve our mission every day. This week, we’re thankful to get even more helping hands from one of our region’s largest and most successful organizations. 

Constellation Brands’ Nourishing Neighbors week is underway and volunteers are taking on all kinds of tasks at Foodlink and other local nonprofits. On Monday, a few early-risers were loading up one of our Curbside Market vehicles and were featured live on Good Day Rochester. 

Join us: Here’s how YOU can sign up to volunteer at Foodlink

On Tuesday, several Constellation volunteers helped sort and inspect food in our warehouse. On Wednesday, two shifts of volunteers helped spruce up and close down the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm. 

Community Program Coordinator Nathaniel Mich said the volunteers would help add 24 extra raised beds to the back area of the garden. The crops grown would then be sold on the Curbside Market and at other local stores. 

Nourishing Neighbors is one of the organization’s Social Responsibility initiatives. According to Constellation Brands’ website

“One of the causes that our employees are most passionate about is food insecurity. Our Nourishing Neighbors initiative, started in 2014, enhances the grassroots efforts of our employees through a unified, company-wide strategy. Employees are given paid time off to volunteer, and together with the company, donate food and money to help fight hunger in our communities.”

More than 200 employees are expected to donate their time locally this week. From all of us at Foodlink, we appreciate your service to our community! Come back soon!

 

Progress Report: Community Kitchen update (October)

The dish-washing room in Foodlink's new Community Kitchen.

The dish-washing room in Foodlink’s new Community Kitchen.

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“This is the _______ room.” 

The line – a common one – was usually countered with a slow scan, a nod and then my imagination handled the rest. The blank, in these cases, referred to one of the many rooms in Foodlink’s new Community Kitchen. Meal Production, Value-Added Processing, Dry Storage, Expediting. So many rooms … and they all basically looked the same.

Until now.

I was pleased when I walked into the Dish-washing Room during a recent tour and I saw an actual dish-washing machine. That’s not to say it wasn’t fun to imagine everything, but stainless steel equipment helps, too. Like everything in this kitchen, the machine is a beast. We’ll never know for sure, but it looks as though one of those Smart Cars might be able to fit inside.

Other improvements, such as fresh paint and ceiling tiles, also assure observers that construction is in the home stretch. Seventy percent of the flooring is also complete. 

The Utility Distribution System (UDS) in the main production room is connected to the hoods. The UDS is where all equipment plugs into for access to water, electric, gas and internet. Yes, some of our more high-tech equipment will have the capability of sending data (cooking temps, etc) directly to a computer’s database. 

There are other exciting pieces of equipment, such as a garbage disposal system that easily filters out food that isn’t fit for our sewer system. 

This garbage disposal filters out any large waste as to not disturb the plumbing system.

This garbage disposal filters out any large waste as to not disturb the plumbing system.

In our ongoing video series, the last few interviews that I’ve conducted have all been kitchen employees. It’s easy to sense that a real excitement is starting to build amongst the staff as the kitchen takes shape and they either see improvements first-hand, or through videos and photographs. 

There are no longer holes in the ground; and when you look up, you see clean ceiling tiles rather than the “guts” of a building under construction (see below). The kitchen has a clean look to it. And with the equipment moving in, it’s starting to exude an aura of functionality.

In the months ahead, we’ll be able to move in our most prized possession: Our staff. 

Our Community Kitchen in early June.

Our Community Kitchen in early June.

Register for the East Ave. Grocery Run!

This year's East Ave. Grocery Run is Nov. 5.

This year’s East Ave. Grocery Run is Nov. 5.

The annual East Ave. Grocery Run is right around the corner. Register now for the Nov. 5 race and help us fight hunger!

Registration can be done in person at Fleet Feet Sports (Culver Road or Ridgeway locations), or online. There is a 5K, a 1-mile run/walk and a children’s fun run. An awards ceremony and post-race food and refreshments will be served. 

The race begins at Third Presbyterian Church (near East and Meigs) and heads east down East Avenue until Oliver Place. It then winds back through University, Goodman, East Main and Prince streets. Proceeds from the event go to agencies that help Foodlink fight hunger in Rochester.  

Also, don’t forget about the MVP Food Drive, in memory of our founder, Tom Ferraro. Bring a non-perishable item (or items!) to donate to Foodlink when you show up for the race. Our truck will be there to collect all the goods. 

Find more information on the race website. We hope to see you there. 

Bills, Tops & Campbell’s team up to tackle hunger

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251 and counting.

Or, if you’re a food banker, 5,020 and counting. 

The first number is significant to Buffalo Bills fans, as it represents the number of tackles made by Buffalo’s defense through four games this season. The second number, however, means a lot more to western New Yorkers in need. For every Bills tackle this season, 20 cans of soup are donated and shared among four upstate food banks, including Foodlink. The other three include: The Food Bank of Western New York, The Food Bank of Central New York and the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. 

Campbell’s Chunky Soup (remember those Donovan McNabb ads back in the day???), Tops Friendly Markets and the Bills have teamed up once again to Tackle Hunger and Foodlink, of course, is extremely grateful for their support.

“We are very pleased to continue our relationship with the Tackle Hunger program,” said Bruce Popko, Pegula Sports and Entertainment’s executive vice president of business development. “This is a very important initiative for our community and our neighbors who rely heavily on local food banks. We look forward to doing our part to help create a community where no one has to wonder where their next meal is coming from.”

 And in case you’re wondering which player has donated the most cans this year, here’s the top 3 so far: (1) Zach Brown – 34 (2) Preston Brown – 21 (3) Ronald Darby – 14. 

Thank you Zach for leading the charge, and thank you Bills for once again helping us end hunger in western New York!

 

Foodlink awarded highly competitive USDA grant

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The USDA announced Sept. 30 that Foodlink will receive grant funding from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which has invested more than $8.6 million in projects “to foster self-sustaining solutions that help make healthy foods available to families living in low-income neighborhoods.”

If you’re thinking that description sounds an awful lot like the work we do with the Curbside Market, you’d be spot on.  

Indeed, Foodlink will receive $125,000 from NIFA’s Community Food Projects grant program to help the Curbside program grow. Chief Program Officer Mitch Gruber told WXXI over the weekend that the funds will help Curbside expand, maintain its fleet and develop a greater relationship with the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm. 

A peek inside one of the Curbside Market's three vehicles.

A peek inside one of the Curbside Market’s three vehicles.

The Curbside Market is Foodlink’s mobile farmers market that sells fresh, affordable produce in underserved communities. Cash, debit, EBT and WIC are all accepted. SNAP customers can also double their purchasing power through Curbside’s enrollment in Double Up Food Bucks. 

Foodlink is one of 33 recipients of CFP funding nationwide. 

“Since 1996, the Community Food Projects program has empowered people in low-income communities to become more self-reliant in getting healthy, nutritious food,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. Recent USDA data indicates that we are making tremendous headway in battling hunger and food insecurity across America. With programs such as this we are able promote efforts to decrease food insecurity through healthy diets and nutrition education.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sen. Charles Schumer also praised the news.

“By supporting organizations like Foodlink, we can promote healthy eating and provide access to nutritious foods for New Yorkers who might not otherwise have the option,” Schumer said. “Fresh and affordable food shouldn’t be a luxury for the people of the Greater Rochester area. This Foodlink program will not only benefit tens of thousands of people in the Rochester area, but also help our farmers by increasing their production and yields for the year.” 

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“We need to make access to healthy foods a priority in our communities,” Gillibrand said. “By investing in nutrition initiatives, we are not only ensuring our families have access to nutritious food, we are also creating opportunities for our local farmers. Through these additional resources, Foodlink will able to expand their ability to reach more families with local products.”

The Curbside Market’s current schedule runs through November. Check out the routes for Monroe County & Outlying Counties to find a stop near you. A new schedule for the winter and spring months will be released next month. 

This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture,Community Food Project.

Progress Report: Community Kitchen update (September)

We gave the Community Kitchen some color (orange, of course) this month.

We gave the Community Kitchen some color (orange, of course) this month.

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Each September, Foodlink goes orange to promote Hunger Action Month.

This year, so did our Community Kitchen. 

We gave the kitchen a splash (quite a few splashes, actually) of orange paint earlier this month to brighten up the place. Orange — the color of the nation’s first food stamps — means a great deal to Foodlink and everyone involved in the anti-hunger movement. Executive Director Julia Tedesco explained its significance in the latest installment of our Community Kitchen video series.

“[The orange walls] are incredibly symbolic for us,” Tedesco said. “Orange is the color of hunger, but I also wanted these orange walls because when people come through our kitchen, I wanted them to remember that it’s a community-based kitchen and what we’re doing here is preparing meals for children — up to 12,000 per day, eventually. These orange walls tell me that we’re here for the community and we’re here to end hunger.”

Hunger Action Month is a nationwide campaign, spearheaded by Feeding America, to mobilize the public to raise awareness about hunger in the United States. It’s an issue that exists in every county of the country, and one that still persists at alarming levels.

The timing of the paint hitting the walls MAY have been somewhat coincidental, but it certainly was appropriate. 

The condenser units installed in the Value-Added Processing room.

The condenser units and ceiling grid installed in the Value-Added Processing room.

Looking elsewhere around the kitchen, you’ll notice the ceiling tile grids in place and some condenser units installed in the main kitchen area and Value-Added Processing room. The floor still very much has the look of a construction site, but we’re told the tiles are going in very soon. 

There are several high-speed doors now installed and plumbing throughout the facility. Other key milestones include the completion of the epoxy flooring near our new blast chiller, and the installation of the refrigeration boxes, which will soon be hooked up to electricity and the condensers. 

More orange, and one of many high-speed doors in the Community Kitchen.

More orange, and one of many high-speed doors in the Community Kitchen.

As we head into fall, it’s nice to have some color on the walls inside the kitchen. When the tiles go down in the coming weeks, I have a feeling that next month’s update will have an entirely different look and feel. 

Thanks for staying engaged with us throughout this process. It’s an exciting time at Foodlink, and we can’t wait to invite everyone in for a tour. 

Video: Executive Director Julia Tedesco talks about the Community Kitchen

Other videos are available on Foodlink’s YouTube channel

Festival of Food is fast approaching; Check out the roster!

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The Festival of Food is less than a week away — a hard concept to grasp for an event our dedicated staff has been planning for almost half the year. 

If you haven’t purchased your tickets yet … now’s the time. All proceeds from the festival (Sept. 19, 6-9 p.m. at the Public Market) help fund our anti-hunger efforts and more than three dozen food-related programs that help us build healthier communities.

BUY TICKETS: $50 in advance online, $60 at the door

As always, an incredible selection vendors — including restaurants, wineries, breweries, bakeries and specialty food purveyors — will be on hand for our guests to enjoy. Here’s the full list, which at last count totaled 110 options from which Rochester foodies can choose!

Restaurants/Caterers

A/B Stand
Al’s Stand Café
Amore by Wegmans
Atria
Big Tree Inn
Burger Bar by Wegmans
Burgundy Basin
ButaPub
Chef’s Catering
Cooking and Eating Healthy with Phil
CURE
Daily Refresher
Dorado
French Quarter
Freshwise Catering
Gray Ghost Gourmet
Hart’s Local Grocers
Hose 22
Itacate
James Browns Place
Jetty At The Port
Juan and Maria’s Empanada Shop
Lento
Livie’s Jamaican Restaurant & Import Market
Mesa Grande Taqueria
Mise EN Place Market
Munchies Roc City Empanadas
Napa Wood Fired Pizzaria and Bistro
New York Wine & Culinary Center/ Upstairs Bistro
Next Door By Wegmans
Nosh
Nox
Orange Glory
Ox and Stone
Peppa Pot
ROUX
Sapori Café and Catering
SEA Restaurant
The Cub Room
The Pub by Wegmans
The Rabbit Room
Warfields Bistro
Warfields
West Edge Restaurant and Lounge

Bakery/Dessert

Amazing Grains Bakery
Badass Power Cookie
Brians Kitchen
Brown Sugar Pastries
Cheesy Eddie’s
Donna Marie’s Gluten Free Bakery
Get Caked
Hedonist Artisan Ice Cream
Hetties Delites
Moonlight Creamery
Small World Bakery
Special Touch Bakery
Sugary Delights

Food trucks

Effortlessly Healthy
Empire Bar and Grill
Neno’s Food Truck

Non-alcoholic beverages

Hallelujah Heritage Teas
Happy Earth Tea
Ouzon Soda
Red Jacket Orchards
Union Place Coffee

Specialty Foods

Chef Lerman
Cosimano & Ferrari Olive Oil Company
F. Olivers Oils and Vinegars
Fare Game Food co.
Florida Nut House
Gawalli Pasta
Geulas
Go Veggies
Mountain Rise Organics
Once Again Nut Butter
SauceAtude
Small World Fermentary
Stuarts Spices
Zweigle’s

Alcoholic beverages

Anthony Road Winery
Apple Country Spirits
Black Button Distillery
Blue Toad Hard Cider
Casa Larga Vineyards
CB Craft Brewers
Embark Craft Ciderworks
Fulkerson Winery
Genesee Brew House
Heron Hill Winery
Honeoye Falls Distillery
Inspire Moore Winery
Knucklehead Craft Brewing
Lyonsmith Brewing
Montezuma Winery
Naked Dove
Nedloh Brewing
Red Tail Ridge Winery
Roc Brewing Co.
Rohrbach Brewing Co.
Rootstock Ciderworks
Swiftwater Brewing Co.
Three Brothers Winery
Three Heads Brewing

Farms

Wegmans Organic Farms

Hunger Action Month is here

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For food banks around the country, September is a big deal.

Hunger Action Month is a time for Foodlink and the Feeding America network to mobilize the public to take action on the issue of hunger and food insecurity in the United States. More than 48 million Americans suffer from food insecurity, meaning they lack reliable access to a sufficient amount of affordable, nutritious food. In other words, they may not know when or where they are getting their next meal.

In Foodlink’s 10-county service area, 12.5 percent of the population (1 in 8 people) are considered food insecure. For children, that statistic rises to 1 in 5.

How can you help make a difference and help Foodlink end hunger? You can start by visiting Foodlink’s website for a few recommendations:

Home Depot employees proudly support Hunger Action Month. Orange is their favorite color!

Home Depot employees proudly support Hunger Action Month. Orange is their favorite color!

For more information about Hunger Action Month on a national level, visit HungerActionMonth.org.