How We Fight Hunger

Food Bank

Foodlink provides food to more than 500 partner agencies. 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.

BackPack Program™

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.


Mobile Pantry

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. 


Community Kitchen

Nourishing kids with good food.

We provide kids with hot, nutritious meals so they can spend their time playing and learning—not worrying about where their next meal will come from. 


We’ve moved!

The biggest news coming out of Foodlink in the last year is — without a doubt — the relocation and expansion of our kitchen! In May, we celebrated the groundbreaking of our new, 28,000-square-foot facility at our headquarters on Mt. Read Boulevard. On Dec. 5, we moved into our brand new kitchen! 

Explore: Learn more about our Community Kitchen project

Foodlink's new Community Kitchen at our Mt. Read headquarters.

Foodlink’s new Community Kitchen at our Mt. Read headquarters.

Having everyone at Foodlink finally under one roof enables us to strengthen our organizational culture and commitment to a healthy, hunger-free community. As the kitchen staff gets acclimated to its new surroundings and state-of-the-art equipment, we will focus on three critical program areas:

1. Healthy Meals for Children – Triple our capacity and eventually deliver 12,000 meals per day.

2. Local Value-Added Processing – Enhance our sliced-apple production, spur economic development for regional farmers.

3. Workforce Training – Establish a one-of-a-kind culinary training program for individuals with barriers to employment.

We can’t wait to show off the finished product to the public! Visit the Community Kitchen website for more information. 

Kids Cafe

The Kids Cafe Program was established to provide healthy meals for children in a safe after school environment. Currently, Foodlink provides healthy meals and snacks to more than 3,500 children every weekday during the school year at 58 Kids Cafe sites.

Contact us

The 2016-2017 Kids Cafe member application is available here: New center application | Returning center application. For more information contact Nutrition Programs Coordinator Claire Savini at (585) 254-4423 or by emailing All applications must include a copy of OCFS licensing.

Summer Meals

Freshwise Kitchen’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP, also known as Summer Meals) provides meals to children who eat free or reduced-price lunch during the school year. Over the summer, however, these children are at risk of hunger. Freshwise has partnered with the NYS Department of Education to ensure children eat at least one balanced meal every day in the summer. Locally, Summer Meals is a collaboration with the City of Rochester, Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, Foodlink, the Rochester Area Community Foundation and the Rochester City School District.

For more information, contact Nutrition Programs Coordinator Claire Savini at (585) 254-4423 or by emailing

Value-Added Processing

During the summer of 2012, we began a new initiative by implementing a value-added processing (VAP) program to extend the shelf life of local agricultural products. Our VAP program includes workforce development training as we teach individuals valuable skills in the preparing, processing, packaging, and marketing of raw local products. The final products of this program—a trained workforce and shelf-stable products—will benefit both producers and consumers in our regional food system.

Some value-added processing is already in place. For example, local apples are washed, sliced, bagged, and distributed in individual serving sizes to schools in our region. Foodlink will be increasing our apple production and expanding to other products, such as squash puree, frozen blueberries and broccoli florets.

For more information, call (585) 254-4423.



Workforce Development

Coming soon! The third major focus area of our new Community Kitchen is the development of a one-of-a-kind, employer-driven culinary training program. Stay tuned for more details in the year ahead.  

MORE: Learn about what’s on the horizon for workforce development at Foodlink

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: 

Curbside Market

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. 

Garden Project

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

Nutrition Education

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 like 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.


Cooking Matters™

Foodlink is proud to be a lead partner of Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters, a national program that works to make sure all kids have the healthy food they need every day.

Cooking Matters empowers families at risk of hunger with the skills, knowledge and confidence to make healthy and affordable meals. Alongside volunteer culinary and nutrition experts, course participants learn to select nutritious and low-cost ingredients, and prepare them in ways that provide the best nourishment possible to their families.

Courses available through Foodlink include:

  • Cooking Matters for Adults
  • Cooking Matters for Kids
  • Cooking Matters for Families
  • Cooking Matters for Teens
  • Cooking Matters for Child Care Professionals
  • Cooking Matters for Parents

Cooking Matters now offers programming in Wayne and Ontario counties! Contact us to learn more.


Volunteer for Cooking Matters

Chef Instructors provide leadership for course curriculum. Volunteers must have background in the culinary arts and/or restaurant experience.

Nutrition Educators help facilitate and guide the group. Registered dietitians, those with a nutrition or food science background, and dietetic interns are encouraged to apply.

Class Assistants provide support and organizational assistance throughout the 6-week course.

Interpreters and Translators are a key source between the course instructors and participants who are non-English speaking and/or from the deaf community.

Photo and Video Journalists will attend 2-3 Cooking Matters classes and produce high quality images and/or a video segment for marketing use.

If you are interested in volunteering, please fill out this volunteer application. 

Cooking Matters at the Store


Cooking Matters at the Store, made possible through a sponsorship with MVP Health Care, is an interactive grocery store tour for that teaches low-income adults how to shop for healthy, affordable food. Participants learn to find whole grains, buy fruits and vegetables on a tight budget, compare unit prices, and read food labels. Tours are offered in English and Spanish throughout our 10-county service area to groups of low-income adults. If you or a group is interested in attending, please call Alyssa VanValkenburg, Nutrition Education Manager at (585) 413-4051 or email




Contact us

To learn more about becoming a host site, volunteer opportunities through Cooking Matters, or signing up for classes, contact Alyssa VanValkenburg, Nutrition Education Manager at (585) 413-4051 or email

For more information about Share Our Strength’s National Program, visit or

Popular Cooking Matters Recipes:
Southwestern Black Eyed Pea Corn Salad
Turkey Tacos
Sweet Potato Fries


Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables (JSY)

Foodlink offers the Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables (JSY) Program to emergency agencies. The JSY Program began in New York in 1997 in order to provide nutrition education and obesity prevention programming to low-income clients of the emergency food network. It is funded through the state Department of Health and USDA’s SNAP-Ed Project. SNAP-Ed supports nutrition education for people eligible for SNAP (formerly known as food stamps).

The mission of JSY is to work with organizations that serve food insecure populations to improve the health and nutritional status of SNAP-eligible residents in New York. We do this through promoting fruit and vegetable consumption and empowering clients to make healthy choices.

Foodlink offers JSY classes to our emergency agencies, like food pantries and soup kitchens. Each class includes a nutrition lesson and activity, a cooking demonstration, and healthy recipes to taste. To request a class, call us at 585-436-FOOD. To learn more, visit

JSY at the Market

Each spring and summer, Foodlink brings the “JSY at the Market” program to the City of Rochester Public Market. A nutrition educator offers free cooking demonstrations at the Public Market every Thursday and Saturday from June through October next to the Market Office. The aim of the program is to help individuals and families eat healthy, make the most of their food budgets, prepare foods safely, and adopt a healthier lifestyle overall. 

2017 season

Our 2017 program has been scheduled and we’re excited to bring you another season of Just Say Yes at the Market! The first session is scheduled for Thursday, June 1, and we will wrap up the season on Saturday, Oct. 28. Topics will change weekly and include: How to properly store fruits and vegetables, stretching your food dollars, meal planning, healthy beverages and more. 

Thursdays: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Saturdays: 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Workshops run 20-30 minutes and occur on the hour. Upcoming topics:

June 1 & 3The benefits of fruits and vegetables
June 8 &  10Shopping at the Farmers Market
June 15 & 17Storing fruits and vegetables
June 22 & 24MyPlate guidelines
June 29 & July 1Food safety
July 6 & 8Stretching food dollars
July 13 & 15Portion sizes
July 20 & 22Fiber
July 27 & 29The benefits of beans

For more information, contact us at 585-436-FOOD.


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. Our primary goals are for persons eligible for SNAP to eat more fruits and vegetables, drink fewer sugar-sweetened beverages, exercise more and balance calories as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Foodlink provides the Finger Lakes Eat Smart New York Nutrition Education program within the City of Rochester. 

The regional program, in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension, is available throughout an 11-county Finger Lakes region that includes: Cayuga, Chemung, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tompkins, Wayne and Yates counties with a focus on communities with high rates of participation in SNAP.

For more information, please contact Alyssa VanValkenburg at (585) 413-4051 or email or visit


Healthy Eating Tips

To help keep the cost of food lower, try these shopping tips:

 Before you shop…

  • Decide to make healthy substitutions in classic recipes. Try replacing up to 75% of the oil in baked goods with applesauce or banana puree. Or try replacing up to 100% of the butter, margarine, or oil in baked goods with bean purees.
  • Plan on beans and legumes. Meat is the most expensive part of the meal. Cut down on your total meal cost by using non-meat protein instead.
  • Make a menu. Plan to use ingredients that spoil more quickly first. Other foods, like squash and potatoes, will stay good longer.

 While you’re shopping….

Stretch your dollar

  • Try buying in bulk. Compare unit prices. Often larger sizes also cost less.
  • Make foods from scratch. Cut out the middle man and cut down the cost! Great items to make from scratch are bread, soup, jam, hummus, salad dressing, and salsa.
  • Look for sales. Check the bakery for half-off specials on “day old” items at the end of the day. Check the meat section for discounted prices on meat that is soon to expire- then freeze it. It will stay good for at least one month.

Use produce

  • Compare prices of fresh, frozen, and canned. At different times during the year, each of these may be the more affordable choice. Frozen fruits and vegetables are flash frozen at the peak of freshness, for the best quality. Canned products can often be rinsed to reduce salt.
  • Shop locally.  Farmers’ markets offer variety and the chance to get to know the person who grew the food!

 From: Good Food on a Tight Budget

 Cook safely

CLEAN: Wash hands and surfaces often
SEPARATE: Separate raw meats from other foods   
COOK: Cook to the right temperature      
CHILL: Refrigerate food promptly

 Remember to cook all turkey and chicken to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit

For more food safety information:

Food Hub

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. 

Transportation Assets:

  • 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

Operational Assets:

  • 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:

  • Inventory
  • Deliveries/Pick-ups
  • Accounting and billing

Programmatic assets:

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.

SNAP information



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.

Important Changes:

Monthly Gross Income Guidelines (Oct. 1, 2016 – Sept. 30, 2017)

Household Size

130% of Federal Poverty Limit*

200% of Federal Poverty Limit**

























Each additional person:             +$451                                     +$693

* People under the age of 60 and not disabled. 
** Households with seniors 60+, people with disabilities, and/or childcare costs incurred during work or school

Maximum Monthly SNAP Allotments

 Household Size


10/1/14 – 9/30/17 

























SNAP Outreach

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:



Cattaraugus Community Action

Joye Mott



Food for All

Kay Brion



Law NY

Sue Segelman



Law NY

Pamela Johnson



Law NY

Virginia Tourrella



Law NY

Edna Reid

315-781-1465 x1008


Law NY

Tami Sprague

315-781-1465 x1018


Perry Emergency Food Pantry

Douglass Spencer



Zion Hill

Rachel Bender



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.

Workforce Development

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 will support the production of healthy meals for the most vulnerable members of our community, increase agricultural economic development, and help reduce poverty.

Foodlink’s Community Kitchen, pictured in December 2016 after its staff relocated from its former facility on Joseph Avenue.

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 new 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:

Jes Rooks
Director of Workforce Development Initiatives

Green 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.


Sweet Beez

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.

Noblehurst Farms

We’ve partnered with Noblehurst Farms in Linwood and Natural Upcycling to convert high-sugar drinks into energy. Volunteers at Foodlink empty bottles and cans of soda and other products to fill large vats, which are then delivered to the farm and emptied into an anaerobic digester system. This massive circular vessel can continuously stir 1.33 million gallons of material in order to break it down and create biogas, which in turn helps power the farm.

Click here to learn more about Noblehurst Green Energy.