Rochester refugees to Foodlink: ‘You have made it a little easier for us’

Foodlink has strengthened its connection to Rochester’s refugee community thanks to its recent engagement with the Office of Adult & Career Education Services (OACES) of the Rochester City School District. 

In March, Finger Lakes Eat Smart New York nutrition educators held and event to introduce themselves to the office and help promote the Curbside Market. After a brief food demo with nearly 300 OACES students, educators Iluminada Vilca (a Monroe County nutritionist) and Margaret Liljedahl (who is based out of Foodlink’s office) began working with a class of adult English-language learners from all over the world. They held six classes that addressed topics such as whole grains, fats and label reading. 

“The students were incredibly engaged and curious during each workshop and always asked phenomenal questions,” Liljedahl said. “I could tell that they were really applying the new information in their everyday lives.”

The food landscape in the United States is far different than most of their native countries, with plethora options — many of which aren’t very nutritious. The class spent time talking about how to carefully select the right foods.

“It was a new and interesting experience for me to be able to help equip people who are pretty new to this country with the skills to discern fact from fiction when looking at food labels and to make sense of the nutrition facts panel,” Liljedahl said.

The class was wholly supportive of Foodlink’s mission, and loved the nutrition classes and visits from the Curbside crew. They ended up writing a lovely Thank You note to the staff, part of which read:

“We are refugees who have a difficult time starting out a new life in the United States, but you have made it a little easier for us. We hope that you will continue this service next year to help those who come after us. Thank you for caring for us.”

Some additional testimonials from class members:

“These nutrition lessons were very interesting. It is good education and a new experience.”

“In my country, the food that’s available is more healthy. Here in America there is so much fat and sodium and sugar everywhere. It is important to know how to pick the healthy foods and I learned how to do that in our lessons.”

“I’ve learned about healthy food and which food is good and how much sugar is bad. Also about sodium and fat and whole grains. Thank you so much.”

“We learned about all food types and how important it is to read the ingredients. We need to eat all kinds of foods including protein, fat, whole grains, etc. but we have to pick the right kinds!”

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