How We Fight Hunger
Foodlink provides food to hundreds of member agencies in our service area. We provide food to emergency food organizations such as food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters. We also assist non-emergency programs such as group homes and senior centers, helping nonprofit agencies save vital dollars on their food budget so their scarce resources can be redirected to their programs.
There’s enough food to go around. Foodlink’s 90,000-square-foot warehouse can hold 5 million pounds of food a day. Our freezer is capable of holding one million pounds. Our cooler can hold 400,000 pounds. Our fleet of 13 trucks provide top-notch service to all corners of our service area, from the lake shore to the Pennsylvania border. A collaborative effort of Foodlink employees, volunteers and community members work to help ensure that mouths are fed and bellies are full.
Within Foodlink’s food bank operations, and apart from the work we do serving hundreds of agencies, there are two main programs that help combat hunger in the Rochester area.
The BackPack Program from Foodlink provides children in need with bags of nutritious food each weekend, when school meals are no longer available. Learn more.
Our mobile pantry program travels to locations in underserved areas of Foodlink’s 10-county service area to supplement the work done by existing pantries in those regions. Learn more.
The Foodlink Community Kitchen is one of the most state-of-the-art commercial kitchens in the Rochester region. The relocation and expansion of the kitchen in 2016 allowed us to focus on three main pillars to build the health and wealth of our communities:
By investing in state-of-the-art equipment, we continue to raise the bar on the nutritional quality of the meals we serve. We currently prepare and deliver thousands of meals daily — primarily to after-school programs that serve youth in the City of Rochester. Learn more
We have enhanced our sliced-apple operations, which aims to provide healthy snack options for kids and spur economic development for regional farmers. We look forward to piloting other produce processing initiatives in the years ahead. Learn more
Foodlink recently launched a one-of-a-kind culinary training program — the Foodlink Career Fellowship — for individuals with barriers to employment. Participants in this program will graduate onto middle-skills jobs and earn a living wage that will help them avoid future dependency on the emergency food system. Learn more
Food Access Programs
Doing our part to provide healthy and affordable food to all. We’re not just fighting hunger. We’re building self-sustainability through improved food access.
The USDA defines a “food desert” as “as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.”
In many places, “food swamps” may be the more appropriate term because there is an abundance of food options from places such as corner stores, but it sorely lacks any nutritional value.
Foodlink has several Food Access Programs in place to combat this issue. They include:
The Curbside Market is a farm stand on wheels that brings fresh, affordable produce to areas where fresh fruits and vegetables are not easily accessible. Cash, debit, EBT and WIC are all accepted. Learn more.
The Garden Project links community gardens to the emergency food network by making it possible for emergency food relief organizations to grow their own garden so that they can produce fresh fruits and vegetables to be used for emergency food recipients. Learn more.
Urban Farm Stands
Foodlink assists with the operation of about 10 local farm stands throughout the City of Rochester, giving residents easier access to local fruits and vegetables. Learn more.
Teaching nutritious eating for a lifetime of healthy habits.
Individuals in our community who have difficulty accessing an adequate amount and variety of safe foods are at the highest risk for negative health outcomes such as obesity and diabetes. Children and adults who do not have enough healthy food can also suffer from inability to focus and may perform poorly in academic settings.
Foodlink is committed not only to providing food, but helping individuals learn more about what they are eating so that they can take control over their own health and wellness. Foodlink uses the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and My Plate in sourcing, stocking, and distributing food, as well as in nutrition education classes.
Foodlink’s Nutrition Education programs
Educators at Foodlink teach the principles of three main nutrition education programs: Cooking Matters, Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables, and Eat Smart New York.
To learn more about our various programs and how we are improving food literacy in our service area, contact Nutrition Education Manager Margaret Liljedahl at (585) 413-4051 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Foodlink is proud to be a lead partner of Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters, a national program that empowers families at risk of hunger with the skills, knowledge and confidence to make healthy and affordable meals. Learn more.
Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables (JSY)
Foodlink offers the Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables (JSY) Program to emergency agencies to provide nutrition education and obesity prevention programming to low-income clients of the emergency food network. We also hold demonstrations and workshops at the City of Rochester Public Market throughout the year. Learn more.
Finger Lakes Eat Smart New York Program
Finger Lakes Eat Smart New York is funded by the SNAP-Ed program, whose mission is to improve the likelihood that persons eligible for SNAP will make healthy choices within a limited budget and choose active lifestyles consistent with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate. Learn more.
National Nutrition Month
Foodlink’s nutrition educators empower individuals to maintain a healthy diet year-round, but each March we shine a spotlight on the work we do through the National Nutrition Month campaign, spearheaded by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
For 2019, our team decided to take a look at “Nutrition Through the Years,” in honor of Foodlink recently celebrating its 40th anniversary. Many of the events we have planned throughout the month take a look at how nutrition has evolved since our founding four decades ago.
Check out the National Nutrition Month calendar we created below, and please consider attending one of our public events! Highlights include:
- March 8: Our Cooking Matters at the Store tour at Tops
- March 20: Trivia Night at Three Heads Brewing!
- March 21: Visit the Public Market to see our JSY educators in action!
The Foodlink Food Hub
The United States Department of Agriculture defines a Food Hub as “a centrally located facility with a business management structure facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution and/or marketing of locally produced food products.” Most existing Food Hubs focus on helping small and mid-sized farmers access new markets to increase their profitability. Foodlink’s work maintains many of the same goals as the USDA Food Hubs, as we purchase and redistribute nearly two million pounds of local produce every year. The Foodlink Food Hub is unique, however, because our primary goal is to help underserved individuals and institutions access fresh, healthy, and affordable foods.
The core of our Food Hub is our warehouse facility at 1999 Mt. Read Blvd., where we have the capacity to distribute more than 19 million pounds of food annually (including 5.7 million pounds of fruits and vegetables in 2016!). Ancillary assets include industrial-sized freezers and coolers, a fleet of trucks, and a commercial kitchen. This capacity allows us to purchase high volumes of local product and redistribute to the 500 agencies in our network.
By being good stewards of our assets and resources, we can go “beyond food banking” and do more than redistribute food. This is how Foodlink has gone from Food Bank to Food Hub. Our consumer-driven food hub starts with food distribution, but it includes several programs and resources that increase food access and food literacy. They include:
- Cooperative Purchasing
- Food Access Programs
- Farm to Institution Initiatives
- Farm to School (sliced apples)
- Value-Added Processing
- Prepared Meals
- SNAP outreach and education
- Nutrition Education
- Food Budgeting
- Menu-planning for agencies
Foodlink is using our assets and resources to be the regional Food Hub. We are using our strong partnerships with farmers to gather and distribute product throughout our 10-county service area. We are supporting farmers by purchasing surplus, unsold, and unharvested product. We are making this a hassle-free experience to ensure that quality local product reaches as many people as possible.
In addition, the Foodlink organization has remarkable assets and resources, such as:
1999 Mt. Read Blvd:
- 80,000-square-foot warehouse
- 28,000-square-foot commercial kitchen
- 3,700-square-foot cooler
- 5,200-square-foot freezer
- This building operates as our distribution center where more than 19 million pounds of food was moved in 2016.
- This building also houses our Community Kitchen, which serves approximately 4,000 meals daily for area youth and other organizations.
- 53-foot refrigerated tractor trailer
- Three 26-foot refrigerated straight trucks
- Four 22-foot refrigerated straight trucks
- One 14-foot refrigerated straight truck
- Two non-refrigerated pickup trucks
- Two non-refrigerated vans
- Foodlink is the food bank for 10 counties in Western and Central New York: Allegany, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates.
Within our 10-county service area we partner with 500 human service agencies to move 19 million pounds of food annually. This requires sophisticated software and internal bandwidth for:
- Accounting and billing
Foodlink emphasizes the importance of workforce development throughout all activities. A Food Hub allows Foodlink to continue to train workers and create jobs in several different parts of the food system.
WHAT IS SNAP?
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, is a federal nutrition program that helps you fill the gaps in your grocery budget, stretch your food dollars and buy healthy foods. SNAP benefits can be used to purchase food at grocery stores, convenience stores, some farmers’ markets and co-op food programs, and at Foodlink’s Curbside Market and Urban Farm Stands.
Local Departments of Human Services follow Department of Agriculture rules for determining SNAP eligibility based off of household size, income, and some expenses (including child care for working adults and students, and medical expenses for seniors and people with disabilities). The amount of SNAP you are eligible for is based off of the difference between 30 percent of your net income and what the USDA calls the Thrifty Food Plan amount for your family size. The Thrifty Food Plan is recognized as the most inexpensive grocery budget needed to afford a well-balanced diet for the month.
Visit the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) website to learn more about the program, including maximum SNAP benefit allowances, eligibility requirements and income guidelines.
Foodlink is asking our agencies and community partners to directly refer families in need of SNAP assistance to their respective county Nutrition Outreach and Education Program Coordinators (NOEP). This change from our previous SNAP outreach program will enable clients to receive in-person SNAP assistance more quickly, and will support State SNAP outreach efforts. If your program is in a county that has a NOEP, you can contact your county NOEP Coordinator for SNAP outreach material with their contact information.
Food Help NY: Find a NOEP Center
For counties that do not have a NOEP Coordinator (Livingston, Orleans, Wyoming and Yates county), there are several Foodlink-trained SNAP outreach advocates in your county. Their contact information is also listed below:
COUNTY NOEP COORDINATORS and SNAP Volunteers
Cattaraugus Community Action
Food for All
Perry Emergency Food Pantry
Use Your SNAP Dollars at the Farmers Markets
It is easy to use your EBT card at your local farmers market to buy fresh produce, meats/fish, dairy, grains/breads/bakery items, honey/syrup, and plants/seeds that produce food.
In 2015, Foodlink joined a consortium of local markets who received grant funding to promote the use of SNAP benefits at farmers markets. Read more about the group’s efforts on their website. Participating members include: Foodlink’s Curbside Markets, Brighton Farmers Market, City of Rochester Public Market, Westside Farmers Market and South Wedge Farmers Market.
Building career pathways in our local food economy that nourish communities and create economic opportunity.
Great things happen when people find jobs—they also find confidence, purpose and the sustainable means to put food on the table.
Foodlink launched a job training program through our Value-Added Processing initiative during the second shift at our Community Kitchen. Since its launch, Foodlink has taught participants valuable skills in food processing and fundamentals of food preparation, giving them the experience and skills to secure entry-level employment.
Foodlink also works with individuals through the Work Experience Program (WEP) every day in our food bank. The rerouting of the RTA bus line to include multiple stops at Foodlink’s Mt. Read location has been instrumental in ensuring that Foodlink is an accessible partner in workforce development.
With the completion of our state-of-the-art commercial kitchen and food-processing center, Foodlink will now be able to formalize and expand training opportunities for community members seeking a pathway toward career growth in the regional food sector. Foodlink’s training institute, called the Foodlink Career Fellowship, will support the production of healthy meals for the most vulnerable members of our community, increase agricultural economic development, and help reduce poverty.
The training aims to address the needs of local, hard-to-place and underemployed individuals, as well as employers who are looking to hire a trained, vetted workforce to meet the skills gap and projected growth in the regional food industry.
Our training model is based in the understanding that individuals facing employment barriers succeed in programs that:
1. Provide opportunities to develop, practice and master workplace readiness (or soft skills)
2. Offer clear, attainable and customized career pathways based on the participants assessed strengths, interests and aptitude and regional economic data
3. Model real work environments and connect training to practical, in-demand work skills
4. Offer progressive educational and training opportunities to move participants along their career path
5. Address predominant barriers to employment though program design, community partnerships networking and collaborative solutions to issues such as child care and transportation
6. Provide job placement and retention support
Our 12-month training will have multiple “on and off ramps” to provide flexibility and customization, expanding career pathways for program participants. Employers and local community colleges are engaged as partners to ensure an industry relevant training curriculum. Program participants will learn and hone their skills on industry standard equipment in Foodlink’s Community Kitchen and Value Added Processing Center. Foodlink staff are working with a variety of leading community organizations, industry experts and educational institutions to build trainings that reflect local economic development data and achievable educational goals for participants.
To learn more about our program development or to partner with us, please contact:
Director, Career Empowerment Initiatives
We believe in helping not just the people we serve but the environment as well. Through several green initiatives, Foodlink is committed to reducing our carbon footprint and raising awareness for self-sustainability.
Foodlink is proud to partner with Sweet Beez, which utilizes Rochester’s abundant natural resources to save the declining honeybee population while simultaneously advancing the economic stability of the community. Recently, Sweet Beez provided us with a beehive for use at our Lexington Avenue Garden, and we work with them regularly to provide workshops to the community. Their mission is to create a vibrant urban community, empower community members, expand local economic development and protect the health and well-being of honeybees. This is done through outreach, community action and advocacy efforts. Sweet Beez is also focused on creating jobs through the local production of raw honey and development of agricultural skills.
Click here to learn more about Sweet Beez.