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Tom Ferraro

Press Release

FOODLINK GRIEVES THE PASSING OF
TOM FERRARO, FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Rochester, NY (February 11, 2014) – Thomas C. Ferraro, lifelong anti-hunger advocate, community leader, and visionary entrepreneur who founded Foodlink, one of the nation’s first food banks, died early this morning of pancreatic cancer.  He was 67. 

“It is with great sadness that we share the news of Tom’s death,” said Julia Tedesco, Chief Development & Communications Officer at Foodlink. “Tom had an unquenchable passion for addressing the societal injustices that kept individuals in poverty and struggling to feed their families.  It was this passion, combined with his deep humility and extraordinary sense of humor that made him an inspirational leader not only to the employees of Foodlink, but to the thousands of people he worked with in our community.  He was a remarkable mentor and will be missed by all.”

Born and raised on the west side of the City of Rochester, Tom served as the Executive Director of Foodlink for 36 years. His commitment to the issue of hunger began in the early 1970s, while volunteering at a food cupboard in the 19th ward.  At that time, only three food cupboards existed in Rochester, and all were reporting a steady increase in individuals seeking their services.  In 1978, as an employee of Action for a Better Community, Tom appeared on the Eddie Meath Show to make a communitywide appeal for food donations.  A representative of Thomas’ English Muffins called with a massive donation of bread products—and the regional food bank was born. 

Under Tom’s leadership, Foodlink grew into a 500-member organization distributing more than 18 million pounds of food and resources each year to area soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, group homes, senior centers, day cares, after-school programs and other non-profit organizations.  Foodlink runs more than 30 unique, food-related programs aimed at ending hunger, improving nutrition, empowering individuals with food literacy, and strengthening the regional food system.

Throughout his career, Tom was recognized for his entrepreneurial spirit.  He was among the first “food bankers” in the nation. He served on the original Feeding America (known then as Second Harvest) Board of Directors, working with his peers to develop the concept of food banking nationally; he also assisted in the formation of the other seven New York State food banks as well as the creation of the New York State Department of Health’s Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) which continues to provide millions of dollars to hunger relief, food safety, and nutrition education programs each year.

Tom was also known for his innovative approach to anti-hunger programming and nonprofit management.  He followed his instinct and believed that to solve major problems, one must be willing to take risks. “There is no thinking outside the box,” Tom often said, “there is only living outside the box.”

For more than three decades, his focus was to move the focus beyond the symptom of hunger and toward its root causes, by working to build community health and wealth while providing holistic services to those in need.  He firmly believed that food banks have a responsibility to engage in workforce and economic development initiatives, to assist in building the capacity of other nonprofit organizations, and to be leaders in both public health and broader food system reforms. 

Though he felt uncomfortable with being described as such, Tom was a humanitarian in the true sense of the word.  The welfare of others was the primary concern of his life.  Through his work, he helped to sustain and give hope to hundreds of thousands of individuals, and his policy work at the state and national level reached countless more. 

“Tom personally changed the lives of so many people he met,” said Julia Tedesco. “He was willing to meet and network with anyone who requested time with him, he embraced the energy and enthusiasm of young professionals, he helped other entrepreneurs to get their businesses off the ground, he gave employment opportunities to individuals that no one else would take a chance on, and he unfailingly put people first—even if it meant temporarily disrupting the flow or efficiency of the organization.  He believed that to make the world a better place, you must begin by serving the people directly in front of you—by paying them a living wage and benefits, providing educational opportunities and above all, listening to their needs.” 

Tom was the recipient of numerous distinguished community awards, including the Farash Foundation’s Inaugural Farash Prize for Social Entrepreneurship, a prestigious community award aimed at recognizing and rewarding the best innovative approaches to our society’s most pressing problems. For additional awards and other information, please visit the Foodlink website.

Tom is survived by his mother, Marion Ferraro; beloved wife of 20 years Regine Calvar; sons Michael, Philippe and John; granddaughters Victoria and Isabelle; and countless family members, lifelong friends, partners and employees.  Funeral arrangements have not yet been made.

In his absence, Foodlink will continue to provide its full range of programs and services. Jeanette Batiste, Chief Operating Officer, and Julia Tedesco, Chief Development & Communications Officer, will jointly lead the organization as interim Co-Executive Directors.  Both Batiste and Tedesco have been with the organization for five years and will work closely with the Board of Directors to ensure that Foodlink continues the high-level of operational efficiency, innovative anti-hunger programming, and community collaboration for which it is known. 

Those wishing to donate funds on behalf of Tom are asked to consider contributing to the Foodlink Foundation in Tom’s name. (PO Box 60766, Rochester, NY 14606).   

 

Biography

Thomas C. Ferraro
Executive Director, Foodlink

headshot

Tom in warehouse 2

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Thomas Ferraro founded Foodlink 36 years ago when, as an employee of Action for a Better Community, he appeared on a local television station to make a communitywide appeal for food donations to support the emergency food pantries in Rochester.  Tom was among the first “food bankers” in the nation. He served on the original Feeding America (known then as Second Harvest) Board of Directors, working with his peers to develop the concept of food banking nationally; he also assisted in the formation of the other seven New York State food banks as well as the creation of the NYS Department of Health’s Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) which provides millions of dollars to hunger relief, food safety, and nutrition education programs each year.

Under Tom’s direction, Foodlink has grown into a 500-member organization delivering more than 16 million pounds of food annually to area soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, group homes senior centers and other non-profit organizations in a 10-county area throughout Central and Western New York.  Foodlink’s current full-scale operation includes a 100,000 sq foot warehouse, industrial kitchen, fleet of refrigerated trucks, computerized inventory system, and a staff of over 65 dedicated employees.

Over the past three decades, Tom has moved Foodlink’s focus beyond the symptom of hunger and toward its root causes, by working to build community health and wealth while providing holistic services to those in need. Foodlink goes beyond food banking by focusing on workforce and economic development initiatives, conducting emergency and nonemergency provider trainings to build capacity and ensure safety, emphasizing child nutrition efforts, and offering nutrition, culinary and farm education programs throughout our region. Tom has been an entrepreneur in the nonprofit sector, creating two social enterprises and leading the way in innovative initiatives such as urban agriculture, local value-added processing and converting food waste into fuel and nutrient-rich soil.  

Tom is the recipient of numerous distinguished community awards including the Mayor’s Charles S. Crimi Pax Humana Award from the City of Rochester in 2000, Rochester Urban League Community Leadership Award for Golden Service, and the Greater Rochester Community of Churches Metropolitan Faith-In-Action Award. Foodlink is the recent recipient of the 2009 Ames-Amzalak Award for NonProfit Excellence (RACF), Heritage Christian’s Community Partner Award, and edible Finger Lakes’ “Local Heroes” Award.  In 2012, he was  awarded the St. Bonaventure Gaudete Medal and he was the Farash Foundation’s Inaugural Farash Prize for Social Entrepreneurship, a prestigious community award aimed at recognizing and rewarding the best innovative approaches to our society’s most pressing problems. Most recently he was awarded the RBJ Greater Rochester Award, Mass Mutual Executive Director of the Year Award as well as the ABC Signature Citizen of the Year.

Tom’s devotion to fighting hunger is matched only by his devotion to his family. Tom and his wife, Regine Calvar, live in Pittsford with their twin 14-year old sons, Philippe and John.  Tom also has an older son, Michael, and two granddaughters whom he adores.

 

 

Positions and Employment

1978-Present   Executive Director, Foodlink (formerly Genesee Valley Food Bank); Rochester, NY
1974-1983       Operations/Program Administrator, Action for a Better Community; Rochester, NY
1971-1974       Program Auditor/Economic Development Specialist, Model Cities Program; Rochester, NY

Other Experience and Professional Memberships
1981-1985                   Board Member, America’s Second Harvest National Food Bank Network
1990-1995                   Chair, HelpNet, The I & R Collaborative of Greater Rochester
1994-2000                   Founder and Board Member, Partners Through Food
1995-2000                   Policy Committee, Nutrition Consortium of New York State
1995-2001                   Executive Committee Member, Goals for a Greater Rochester
1985-2005                   Speakers Bureau, United Way of Greater Rochester
2000-2007                   Board Member, Plymouth/Exchange Neighborhood Association
2003-2008                   Executive Committee, Faith and Community Together
1981-Present               Feeding America Eastern Regional Association; Vice President 1986-90; Secretary 1992-95
1985-Present               Member, New York State Food Bank Association; Chair 1998-2003
2000-Present               Executive Committee, Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD); Chair 2003-2007
2005-Present               Member, Community-University Partnership Project
2008-Present               Member, Food Access Group
2008-Present               Member, Monroe County Physical Activity and Nutrition Task Force/Healthy Rochester
2008-Present               Member, Healthi Kids Policy Team
2009-Present               Committee Chair, City of Rochester Urban Agriculture Policy
2010-Present               Steering Committee Chair, Genesee Valley Regional Food Shed Group

Honors

1997                            Metropolitan Faith-In-Action Award, Greater Rochester Community of Churches
2001                            Mayor’s Charles S. Crimi Pax Humana Award, City of Rochester
2003                            Distinguished Community Service Award, Masonic Service Bureau of Rochester
2003                            Community Leadership Award, Youth Services Quality Council
2004                            Thomas J. Shepardson Volunteer Contributions Award, New York State Disaster Preparedness Commission
2004                            Community Leadership Award for Golden Service, Rochester Urban League
2006                            Health Care Achievement Award, Non-Physician, Rochester Business Journal
2009                            Ames-Amzalak Award for Non-Profit Excellence, Rochester Area Community Foundation
2009                            Community Partner Award, Heritage Christian Services
2009                            Local Heroes – Favorite Non-Profit Award, Edible Finger Lakes Magazine
2012                            St. Bonaventure Gaudete Medal
2012                            Monroe County Medical Society’s Edward Mott Moore Award
2012                            Sons of Italy Humanitarian of the Year Award
2012                            Farash Prize for Social Entrepreneurship
2013                            RBJ Greater Rochester Award –Mass Mutual Executive Director of the Year Award
2013                            ABC Signature Citizen of the Year Award

Resume

EDUCATION

Fort Lauderdale University, Fort Lauderdale, FL                                                                                            May, 1970
B.A Business Administration & Accounting

EMPLOYMENT

Foodlink, Rochester, NY – Executive Director & Founder                                                                             1978- 2014

Action for a Better Community, Rochester,NY- Operations/Program Administrator                              1974-1983

Model Cities, Rochester, NY- Program Auditor/Economic Development Specialist                                1971-1974                                                                                           

OTHER EXPERIENCE AND PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS

1981-1985                            Board Member, America’s Second Harvest National Food Bank Network
1990-1995                            Chair, HelpNet, The I & R Collaborative of Greater Rochester
1994-2000                            Founder and Board Member, Partners Through Food
1995-2000                            Policy Committee, Nutrition Consortium of New York State
1995-2001                            Executive Committee Member, Goals for a Greater Rochester
1985-2005                            Speakers Bureau, United Way of Greater Rochester
2000-2007                            Board Member, Plymouth/Exchange Neighborhood Association
2003-2008                            Executive Committee, Faith and Community Together
1981-2014                            Feeding America Eastern Regional Association; Vice President 1986-95
1985-2014                            Member, New York State Food Bank Association; Chair 1998-2003
2000-2014                            Executive Committee, Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD)
2003-2007                            Chair, Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD)
2005-2014                            Member, Community-University Partnership Project
2008-2014                            Member, Food Access Group
2008-2014                            Member, Monroe County Physical Activity and Nutrition Task Force/Healthy Rochester
2008-2014                            Member, Healthi Kids Policy Team
2009-2014                            Committee Chair, City of Rochester Urban Agriculture Policy
2010-2014                            Steering Committee Chair, Genesee Valley Regional Food Shed Group

HONORS

1997                                       Metropolitan Faith-In-Action Award, Greater Rochester Community of Churches
2001                                       Mayor’s Charles S. Crimi Pax Humana Award, City of Rochester
2003                                       Distinguished Community Service Award, Masonic Service Bureau of Rochester
2003                                       Community Leadership Award, Youth Services Quality Council
2004                                       Thomas J. Shepardson Volunteer Contributions Award, New York State Disaster Commission
2004                                       Community Leadership Award for Golden Service, Rochester Urban League
2006                                       Health Care Achievement Award, Non-Physician, Rochester Business Journal
2009                                       Ames-Amzalak Award for Non-Profit Excellence, Rochester Area Community Foundation
2009                                       Community Partner Award, Heritage Christian Services
2009                                       Local Heroes – Favorite Non-Profit Award, Edible Finger Lakes Magazine
2011                                       St. Bonaventure Gaudete Medal
2012                                       Edward Mott Moore Award for Relentless and Selfless Service to the Community
2012                                       Italian American Club: Son’s of Italy “Humanitarian of the Year” Award
2012                                       Inaugural Farash Prize for Social Entrepreneurship
2013                                      RBJ Greater Rochester Award –Mass Mutual Executive Director of the Year Award 
2013                                      ABC Signature Citizen of the Year Award

Memorial Services

Calling Hours were held Friday, February 14th
Bartolomeo & Perotto Funeral Home, Inc.
1411 Vintage Lane
Rochester, NY

Funeral Services were held Saturday, February 15th
Sacred Heart Cathedral
287 Flower City Park

Those wishing to post condolences can go here.