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Get Involved

Volunteer at Foodlink

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Every year, more than 16,000 volunteers donate their time and talents to help Foodlink provide support for thousands of low-income and food-insecure residents. Volunteers are essential at all levels of Foodlink’s operations, from sorting and packaging donated food to assisting with our numerous food-related programs.

If you are interested in volunteering with Foodlink, please take a look at the opportunities below. For any questions or concerns, contact our Volunteer Programs Coordinator, Jessica Lockett, at 585-413-4094 or jlockett@foodlinkny.org

** To schedule court-mandated community service hours, please call Jes Scannell at 585-413-5059.

Getting started

New volunteers:

  1.   Register to join our Volunteer Network
  2.   Select a shift from our Volunteer Calendar

Returning volunteers:

  1.   Select a shift from our Volunteer Calendar

Group reservations:

(Group reservations are for parties of 5 or more.)

  1.   The group leader must first register as an individual
  2.   View the calendar for a desired date and shift.
  3.   Contact Volunteer Programs Coordinator, Jessica Lockett, at 585-413-4094 or jlockett@foodlinkny.org to finalize a group reservation. 

Child volunteers:
(Age 8-17)

  1.   Parent, guardian, or teacher registers to join the Volunteer Network
  2.   Parent, guardian, or teacher calls or emails (see above) to secure a group reservation
  3.   Parent and/or guardian fills out the Child Volunteer Application and brings it to Foodlink on the day of the volunteer shift.
  4.   Parent, guardian, or teacher accompanies the child for a volunteer shift.

Volunteer opportunities

Find your perfect fit with one of Foodlink’s many volunteer opportunities! We have a variety of options that embrace a diversity of skill sets and are perfect for individuals, groups, and kids! Available opportunities are listed on the volunteer calendar.

Distribution Center

Foodlink’s distribution center receives millions of pounds of donated food every year. Volunteers will help sort, categorize, inspect, and assemble bags of non-perishable food items for those in need. This opportunity can accept individuals, groups, and kids. 

Requirements:  Minimum age is 8 years old. Volunteers must wear closed-toed shoes and comfortable/weather-appropriate clothing (our warehouse can be chilly in the winter months!). Adult supervision is required for anyone 8-16 years old. 
Shift duration: Approximately 3 hours
Physical intensity: Moderate; Will include walking and lifting boxes from 25-50 lbs.
Location: Foodlink – 1999 Mt. Read Blvd.  Rochester, NY 14516 (Volunteer entrance is located in the back of the building).

Project Volunteers

This shift is an extension of our Distribution Center volunteer opportunity, and is reserved for individuals and groups with developmental, intellectual or physical disabilities. All shifts are one hour, and take place in the warehouse where volunteers will assist with different tasks including, but not limited to, assembling bags and labeling donated food products. This opportunity can accept individuals, groups, and kids. 

Requirements: Minimum age is 8 years old. Volunteers must wear closed-toed shoes and comfortable/weather-appropriate clothing (our warehouse can be chilly in the winter months!).
Shift duration: Approximately 1 hour
Physical intensity: Light-Moderate; Walking and Standing. Occasionally lifting boxes up to 25 lbs.
Location: Foodlink – 1999 Mt. Read Blvd.  Rochester, NY 14516 (Volunteer entrance is located in the back of the building).

Curbside Market

The Curbside Market is Foodlink’s mobile farmer’s market that sells fresh, affordable produce in underserved communities. Volunteers will ride along with our Curbside drivers to 2-3 sites during their volunteer shift and perform customer service-related tasks at each stop. Volunteers are also expected to help load and unload the Curbside truck during the beginning and end of their shift. This opportunity can accept individuals only.

Requirements: Minimum age is 18 years old. Volunteers must wear closed-toed shoes and comfortable/weather-appropriate clothing (you will be working outdoors). Volunteers may bring water bottle or light snacks. 
Physical intensity: Moderate; Will include walking and lifting boxes up to 50 lbs.
Location: Foodlink – 1999 Mt. Read Blvd.  Rochester, NY 14516 (Start and end at Foodlink — on north side if the building; travel to multiple sites per shift).

Community Kitchen

The Foodlink Community Kitchen prepares 5,000 meals daily for students — mainly those participating in after-school programs. Volunteers will help prepare and assemble meals and snacks for children, and perform other kitchen tasks needed to ensure the safe and timely delivery of our meals. This opportunity can accept individuals only.

Requirements: Minimum age is 18 years old. Volunteers MUST arrive on time and wear closed-toed shoes and comfortable clothing. Hair must be up and tied, no nail polish, no jewelry and cell phone use is limited. | What to wear
Physical intensity: Light-Moderate; Includes walking.
Location: Foodlink – 1999 Mt. Read Blvd.  Rochester, NY 14516 (Kitchen entrance is located in the back of the building).

Cooking Matters

Cooking Matters is a 6-week, volunteer-led, cooking and nutritional course that is provided to Foodlink’s partner organizations (e.g. schools, recreational centers, retirement homes, etc.). Volunteers have three roles to choose from: Chef (prepared to teach basic knife and food-safety skills), Nutritionist (Prepared to teach Myplate guidelines), or Classroom assistants (assist participants or chefs during class). This opportunity can accept 3-4 individuals at a time.

Requirements: Minimum age is 18 years old. Must be available for three hours on a weekly basis. Must wear closed-toed shoes.
Physical intensity: Light-Moderate; Includes walking, bending, lifting an standing.
Location: Various locations

Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables (JSY)

JSY is one of Foodlink’s nutrition education programs. One of its many functions is to provide short cooking demos at the Public Market from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. on select dates. Volunteers will help assist the JSY coordinators with a variety of roles including, but not limited to, food preparation and general clean up. This opportunity can accept individuals only. 

Requirements:  Minimum age is 18 years old. Must wear closed-toed shoes and weather-appropriate clothing.
Physical intensity: Light-Moderate; Includes standing and walking.
Location: City of Rochester Public Market (280 N. Union St.  Rochester, NY 14609)

Lexington Ave. Community Farm

The Lexington Avenue Community Farm allows Foodlink to grow fresh produce for multiple programs, and serves more than 60 refugee families living in northwest Rochester. Volunteers will assist with gardening work such as planting, weeding, spreading mulch, and watering. Gardening tools are provided, but you are welcome to bring your own. There are no bathrooms on site. This opportunity can accept individuals, groups, and kids.

Requirements:  Minimum age is 12 years old. Must wear closed-toed shoes and weather-appropriate clothing.
Physical intensity: Moderate-High; Includes bending, lifting, use of a wheel barrow, etc.
Location: 631 Lexington Ave.  Rochester, NY 14613

Administrative work

Occasionally, Foodlink needs assistance with administrative tasks, such as filing, data entry and mass mailings. 

Requirements: Minimum age is 18 years old. Must have working knowledge of Microsoft Office, especially Excel. 
Physical intensity: Light; Minimal walking or standing.
Location: Foodlink – 1999 Mt. Read Blvd.  Rochester, NY 14516

 

Volunteer FAQ

Can I register my group online?

No, group leaders must FIRST fill out a volunteer application, view the volunteer calendar, and then contact our Volunteer Programs Coordinator, Jessica Lockett, at 585-413-4094 or jlockett@foodlinkny.org to have their reservation scheduled.

I want to volunteer with my friend, do I need to set up a group reservation?

Only parties of 5 or more require a group reservation. If you are looking to volunteer with a friend or 2 other people, please ensure that they fill out a volunteer application and select the same desired shift as you.

My child would like volunteer at Foodlink, should they sign up or can I sign them up?

Children who are between the ages of 8 and 16 must be accompanied by an adult, therefore the parent/ guardian must create a group reservation for their child. Children who are 17 or older may self-schedule online, but must turn in a signed volunteer application/ waiver here. | Access the form in advance

What is the age requirement?

Each volunteer opportunity requires a different age requirement. Please refer to the Volunteer Opportunities section to additional information.

Where do I park?

All volunteer opportunities (excluding Cooking Matters, JSY, and Lexington Ave. Community Farm will take place or start at Foodlink (1999 Mount Read Blvd).

Please enter through Lot B, which is in the back of the Foodlink building. Enter our parking lot off the Mt. Read Boulevard Service Road and continue straight back along the left side of our building. Turn right and continue past our kitchen entrance until you reach the Volunteer Entrance. Ring the buzzer if the door is not already open.

  • Cooking Matters volunteers will meet at their assigned site.
  • JSY volunteers will meet at the Public Market, in the indoor shed (B).
  • Lexington Ave. Community Farm volunteers will meet at 631 Lexington Ave Rochester, NY14613.

What should I wear?

All Foodlink volunteer opportunities require that you wear closed-toed shoes and comfortable/weather appropriate clothing. To volunteer in the Community Kitchen, please see the image above for further guidance.

Is there a place to leave my belongings during my volunteer shift?

Foodlink DOES NOT have a secure area for belongings. We encourage volunteers to leave all personal items in their car or on their person.

Can my group receive a tour during their volunteer shift?

Yes, they can! Upon creating your reservation, please specify that you would like a tour with our Volunteer Coordinator.

Can I or my group eat breakfast/lunch on site?

Dining at Foodlink before or after your volunteer shift is dependent on our volunteer conference room availability. Please specify your request with the Volunteer Coordinator to secure your spots.

Can I volunteer for a specific project in the warehouse?

Warehouse volunteers projects are assigned on an as-needed basis. We cannot guarantee that a project will be available for a specific time and date. 

Board of Directors

Foodlink’s Board of Directors comprises community leaders who are passionate about our mission and committed to using their unique skill sets to help us reach our goals. The principal responsibility of our board of directors is three-fold:

  • To give Foodlink direction, establishing its vision, mission and values.
  • To provide oversight, especially in financial matters, to ensure accountability.
  • To ensure Foodlink has the resources it needs to do its work.

>> See who’s currently on our Board

If you are interested in joining Foodlink’s Board, we recommend that you first serve as a volunteer on one of our board committees.  As a committee member, individuals have a chance to get to know the organization better, and to develop relationships with board members and key staff. After serving on a committee for a year or two, individuals are more equipped to understand the commitment of board service and the leadership culture.

Committees

The role of Foodlink board committees is to ensure best practices in the activities, or the major function, that the committee is assigned to.  Foodlink committees allow volunteers and potential board members to apply their existing expertise or build knowledge in an interest area. Currently, the Foodlink board has committees for:

  • Finance 
  • Marketing and Events 

 

Advocacy

Speak up and reach out.

 
Advocacy is critical to building a more equitable food system and reducing food insecurity in our region. Being an advocate means communicating with your legislators about issues that affect those who struggle to put food on the table. It can also simply mean talking with friends and family, posting on social media, and raising awareness about the need for a long-term solution to hunger.
 
We encourage you to join us as a hunger relief advocate. Look below for our current initiatives and get involved in fighting hunger in our community, in New York, and across America.
 

Identify your local reps

 

Not sure who your representatives are? Visit the NYS Board of Elections website and enter your address to find out your rep for the NYS Assembly, NYS Senate, U.S. House & U.S. Senate.

On the federal level, four Congressional districts span Foodlink’s 10-county service area. Members of Congress who represent the clients who benefit from Foodlink’s services include: Tom Reed (R, 23rd District), John Katko (R, 24th District) and Chris Collins (R, 27th District). The 25th District, which covers Monroe County, is currently vacant due to the passing of Rep. Louise Slaughter in March, 2018.  

Local office #s for:

Rep. Tom Reed’s Geneva office: (315) 759-5229
Rep. John Katko’s Lyons office: (315) 253-4068 
Rep. Chris Collins’ Geneseo office: (585) 519-4002

New York’s two senators are: Charles Schumer (D), who is currently the Senate Minority Leader, and Kirsten Gillibrand (D), who serves a vital role on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Local office #s for:

Sen. Charles Schumer’s Rochester office: (585) 263-5866
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s Rochester office: (585) 263-6250

A large contingent of New Yorkers met with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office during a Lobby Day in Washington D.C. on Feb. 27, 2018.

Federal advocacy efforts

Federal nutrition programs are critical to helping families facing hunger. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps families make ends meet by stretching their grocery budgets. Formerly called “food stamps,” those few SNAP dollars every week make all the difference in the world when it comes to putting nutritious meals on the table. The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) provides food banks with nutritious food from U.S. growers and producers and also helps transport and store the food. Without the program, less meals make it onto the plates of hungry families and farmers are forced to let fresh, nutritious food wither and rot.

This is a massive year for both programs with the scheduled reauthorization of the Farm Bill — a vital piece of legislation that addresses the funding and structure of each. SNAP funding, for example, accounts for approximately 80% of the Farm Bill. The House released its version of the Farm Bill in April, and the Senate is scheduled to follow suit in May. 

Blog: Read Foodlink’s response to the House Farm Bill release

Send a message to Congress now – tell them to fight back against any attempts to cut federal nutrition programs such as SNAP and TEFAP. Please call your members of Congress and tell them to vote against the House Farm Bill (H.R. 2). Dial 1.888.398.8702 to connect with your representative’s office.

FRAC: What you need to know about SNAP & TEFAP

 

Did you know?

  • Last year, SNAP provided food assistance directly to 2.97 million New Yorkers, roughly 70% of whom are children, seniors or disabled. 
  • Moody’s Analystics estimates that in a weak economy, $1 in SNAP benefits generates $1.70 in economic activity. In 2016, SNAP benefits pumped about $4.9 billion into New York’s economy. 
  • SNAP helped lift an average of 710,000 New Yorkers out of poverty each year, according to recent data collected by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
  • Food banks around the country provide A LOT of meals for those in need. But did you know that SNAP provides 10 times more meals than food banks do annually?

New York State advocacy efforts

Foodlink also engages its state representatives to ensure its members agencies and the clients whom they serve are not left behind. Foodlink’s policy priorities for 2018 include: 

Protect Children and Expand Food Security to All NY Students

Double to $1.5 million the State’s investment to fully implement No Student Goes Hungry, advance an end to lunch shaming, expand Farm-to-School programs, establish Breakfast after the Bell in 1,400 schools, increase the reimbursement rate from 5.9 cents to 25 cents per meal for districts who buy 25% -30% of their lunch ingredients from New York farms, and establish food pantries on SUNY and CUNY campuses.

Enact the Food Rescue and Recycling Act (Executive Budget)

Passage would spur a Don’t Waste, Donate culture by recapturing edible, wholesome food from the State’s largest food generators. The Act facilitates valuable food donation channels, reduces atmospheric methane emissions and returns rich compost to NYS soil. The Food Bank Association of New York State membership will be involved in the training of food generators to adopt standardized guidelines for edible food donations before the Act takes effect in 2021.

Reinstate COLA to Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program

This funding allows our members to do great work, however, funding is not adequate and the Executive Budget does not include COLA in 2019. The Food Bank Association of NYS members request the 2019 COLA to be added to the NYS Budget.

Representatives from food banks around the state met in Albany on March 13 to meet with legislators about various anti-hunger issues.

Useful links

  • Foodlink’s executive director, Julia Tedesco, wrote a guest essay for the Democrat and Chronicle about the power of food and the impact of the SNAP program. | Read the essay 
  • SNAP (formerly called food stamps) typically generates headlines. TEFAP, however, is vital for food banks nationwide but doesn’t get as much attention. The USDA has provided a fact sheet about the program. | TEFAP Q&A
  • The Feeding America network relies on community members to take action, and speak up about ending hunger in the United States. | How to fight hunger
  • The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has several useful explainers, articles and studies about federal food assistance programs. | Visit their website
  • Hunger Solutions NY has a wealth of resources about how anti-hunger policies affect New York State. | Visit the website 
  • The following infographic is provided by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) | Visit FRAC’s website