Foodlink on Thursday recognized its rich, 40-year history, while also pledging to continue its tradition of agility and innovation in order to address the crisis of hunger, food insecurity and poverty throughout the Finger Lakes region.
Foodlink staff and several elected officials gathered to mark Hunger Action Day – a nationwide awareness campaign within “Hunger Action Month,” led by the Feeding America network of food banks. In Foodlink’s 10-county service area, nearly 150,000 people are considered food insecure, meaning their household lacks access to enough food for everyone to live a healthy life. Foodlink also used the platform to launch its 40th year, which includes an anniversary logo, and a new strategic plan and vision for the years ahead.
“It made sense for us to launch our 40th year during September, a time of year nationwide to heighten our awareness about hunger, and the fact that too many of our neighbors – including close to 50,000 children – are food insecure,” said Julia Tedesco, Foodlink President & CEO. “We are proud of our history of feeding people in the most innovative ways, and will take time this year to reflect on the past. More importantly, however, we will always look ahead to harness the power of food to find solutions for the challenges that remain.”
Foodlink’s official 40th anniversary is Dec. 19, 2018, which Foodlink staff members refer to as “Muffin Day.” On that date in 1978, Foodlink founder Tom Ferraro rescued a busload of English muffins to redistribute to those in need. Ferraro passed away in 2014, but his legacy remains.
While Foodlink recognizes its long history of redistributing food as one of the first food banks in the nation, Ferraro and others also realized early on that simply feeding people would not end hunger. If done correctly, a food bank’s responsibility is to not only “feed the need,” but “shorten the line,” which is why Foodlink has long practiced social innovation through the launch of numerous programs that target the root causes of hunger, such as food access, food literacy and under-employment.
“Tom Ferraro was a mentor for many of us at Foodlink, and certainly for me personally,” said Mitch Gruber, a member of Rochester City Council and Foodlink’s Chief Programs Officer. “While he often gets credit for his work establishing Foodlink as part of a statewide and national network of emergency food providers, it was the risks he took in making food banks an engine of social and economic development that made him so visionary, and one of Rochester’s great social entrepreneurs.”
Several elected officials helped Foodlink raise awareness and celebrate its 40th year. State Senators Rich Funke and Joe Robach jointly presented a proclamation, as did Assemblymember Harry Bronson. Sandra Simon, representing the City of Rochester as its Director of Special Projects & Education Initiatives, also issued a proclamation that recognized Foodlink’s 40 years of service to the community and declared Sept. 13, 2018 as “Foodlink Day.”