Progress Report: Community Kitchen update (October)

The dish-washing room in Foodlink's new Community Kitchen.

The dish-washing room in Foodlink’s new Community Kitchen.


“This is the _______ room.” 

The line – a common one – was usually countered with a slow scan, a nod and then my imagination handled the rest. The blank, in these cases, referred to one of the many rooms in Foodlink’s new Community Kitchen. Meal Production, Value-Added Processing, Dry Storage, Expediting. So many rooms … and they all basically looked the same.

Until now.

I was pleased when I walked into the Dish-washing Room during a recent tour and I saw an actual dish-washing machine. That’s not to say it wasn’t fun to imagine everything, but stainless steel equipment helps, too. Like everything in this kitchen, the machine is a beast. We’ll never know for sure, but it looks as though one of those Smart Cars might be able to fit inside.

Other improvements, such as fresh paint and ceiling tiles, also assure observers that construction is in the home stretch. Seventy percent of the flooring is also complete. 

The Utility Distribution System (UDS) in the main production room is connected to the hoods. The UDS is where all equipment plugs into for access to water, electric, gas and internet. Yes, some of our more high-tech equipment will have the capability of sending data (cooking temps, etc) directly to a computer’s database. 

There are other exciting pieces of equipment, such as a garbage disposal system that easily filters out food that isn’t fit for our sewer system. 

This garbage disposal filters out any large waste as to not disturb the plumbing system.

This garbage disposal filters out any large waste as to not disturb the plumbing system.

In our ongoing video series, the last few interviews that I’ve conducted have all been kitchen employees. It’s easy to sense that a real excitement is starting to build amongst the staff as the kitchen takes shape and they either see improvements first-hand, or through videos and photographs. 

There are no longer holes in the ground; and when you look up, you see clean ceiling tiles rather than the “guts” of a building under construction (see below). The kitchen has a clean look to it. And with the equipment moving in, it’s starting to exude an aura of functionality.

In the months ahead, we’ll be able to move in our most prized possession: Our staff. 

Our Community Kitchen in early June.

Our Community Kitchen in early June.

Register for the East Ave. Grocery Run!

This year's East Ave. Grocery Run is Nov. 5.

This year’s East Ave. Grocery Run is Nov. 5.

The annual East Ave. Grocery Run is right around the corner. Register now for the Nov. 5 race and help us fight hunger!

Registration can be done in person at Fleet Feet Sports (Culver Road or Ridgeway locations), or online. There is a 5K, a 1-mile run/walk and a children’s fun run. An awards ceremony and post-race food and refreshments will be served. 

The race begins at Third Presbyterian Church (near East and Meigs) and heads east down East Avenue until Oliver Place. It then winds back through University, Goodman, East Main and Prince streets. Proceeds from the event go to agencies that help Foodlink fight hunger in Rochester.  

Also, don’t forget about the MVP Food Drive, in memory of our founder, Tom Ferraro. Bring a non-perishable item (or items!) to donate to Foodlink when you show up for the race. Our truck will be there to collect all the goods. 

Find more information on the race website. We hope to see you there. 

Bills, Tops & Campbell’s team up to tackle hunger


251 and counting.

Or, if you’re a food banker, 5,020 and counting. 

The first number is significant to Buffalo Bills fans, as it represents the number of tackles made by Buffalo’s defense through four games this season. The second number, however, means a lot more to western New Yorkers in need. For every Bills tackle this season, 20 cans of soup are donated and shared among four upstate food banks, including Foodlink. The other three include: The Food Bank of Western New York, The Food Bank of Central New York and the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. 

Campbell’s Chunky Soup (remember those Donovan McNabb ads back in the day???), Tops Friendly Markets and the Bills have teamed up once again to Tackle Hunger and Foodlink, of course, is extremely grateful for their support.

“We are very pleased to continue our relationship with the Tackle Hunger program,” said Bruce Popko, Pegula Sports and Entertainment’s executive vice president of business development. “This is a very important initiative for our community and our neighbors who rely heavily on local food banks. We look forward to doing our part to help create a community where no one has to wonder where their next meal is coming from.”

 And in case you’re wondering which player has donated the most cans this year, here’s the top 3 so far: (1) Zach Brown – 34 (2) Preston Brown – 21 (3) Ronald Darby – 14. 

Thank you Zach for leading the charge, and thank you Bills for once again helping us end hunger in western New York!


Foodlink awarded highly competitive USDA grant


The USDA announced Sept. 30 that Foodlink will receive grant funding from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which has invested more than $8.6 million in projects “to foster self-sustaining solutions that help make healthy foods available to families living in low-income neighborhoods.”

If you’re thinking that description sounds an awful lot like the work we do with the Curbside Market, you’d be spot on.  

Indeed, Foodlink will receive $125,000 from NIFA’s Community Food Projects grant program to help the Curbside program grow. Chief Program Officer Mitch Gruber told WXXI over the weekend that the funds will help Curbside expand, maintain its fleet and develop a greater relationship with the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm. 

A peek inside one of the Curbside Market's three vehicles.

A peek inside one of the Curbside Market’s three vehicles.

The Curbside Market is Foodlink’s mobile farmers market that sells fresh, affordable produce in underserved communities. Cash, debit, EBT and WIC are all accepted. SNAP customers can also double their purchasing power through Curbside’s enrollment in Double Up Food Bucks. 

Foodlink is one of 33 recipients of CFP funding nationwide. 

“Since 1996, the Community Food Projects program has empowered people in low-income communities to become more self-reliant in getting healthy, nutritious food,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. Recent USDA data indicates that we are making tremendous headway in battling hunger and food insecurity across America. With programs such as this we are able promote efforts to decrease food insecurity through healthy diets and nutrition education.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sen. Charles Schumer also praised the news.

“By supporting organizations like Foodlink, we can promote healthy eating and provide access to nutritious foods for New Yorkers who might not otherwise have the option,” Schumer said. “Fresh and affordable food shouldn’t be a luxury for the people of the Greater Rochester area. This Foodlink program will not only benefit tens of thousands of people in the Rochester area, but also help our farmers by increasing their production and yields for the year.” 


“We need to make access to healthy foods a priority in our communities,” Gillibrand said. “By investing in nutrition initiatives, we are not only ensuring our families have access to nutritious food, we are also creating opportunities for our local farmers. Through these additional resources, Foodlink will able to expand their ability to reach more families with local products.”

The Curbside Market’s current schedule runs through November. Check out the routes for Monroe County & Outlying Counties to find a stop near you. A new schedule for the winter and spring months will be released next month. 

This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture,Community Food Project.

Progress Report: Community Kitchen update (September)

We gave the Community Kitchen some color (orange, of course) this month.

We gave the Community Kitchen some color (orange, of course) this month.


Each September, Foodlink goes orange to promote Hunger Action Month.

This year, so did our Community Kitchen. 

We gave the kitchen a splash (quite a few splashes, actually) of orange paint earlier this month to brighten up the place. Orange — the color of the nation’s first food stamps — means a great deal to Foodlink and everyone involved in the anti-hunger movement. Executive Director Julia Tedesco explained its significance in the latest installment of our Community Kitchen video series.

“[The orange walls] are incredibly symbolic for us,” Tedesco said. “Orange is the color of hunger, but I also wanted these orange walls because when people come through our kitchen, I wanted them to remember that it’s a community-based kitchen and what we’re doing here is preparing meals for children — up to 12,000 per day, eventually. These orange walls tell me that we’re here for the community and we’re here to end hunger.”

Hunger Action Month is a nationwide campaign, spearheaded by Feeding America, to mobilize the public to raise awareness about hunger in the United States. It’s an issue that exists in every county of the country, and one that still persists at alarming levels.

The timing of the paint hitting the walls MAY have been somewhat coincidental, but it certainly was appropriate. 

The condenser units installed in the Value-Added Processing room.

The condenser units and ceiling grid installed in the Value-Added Processing room.

Looking elsewhere around the kitchen, you’ll notice the ceiling tile grids in place and some condenser units installed in the main kitchen area and Value-Added Processing room. The floor still very much has the look of a construction site, but we’re told the tiles are going in very soon. 

There are several high-speed doors now installed and plumbing throughout the facility. Other key milestones include the completion of the epoxy flooring near our new blast chiller, and the installation of the refrigeration boxes, which will soon be hooked up to electricity and the condensers. 

More orange, and one of many high-speed doors in the Community Kitchen.

More orange, and one of many high-speed doors in the Community Kitchen.

As we head into fall, it’s nice to have some color on the walls inside the kitchen. When the tiles go down in the coming weeks, I have a feeling that next month’s update will have an entirely different look and feel. 

Thanks for staying engaged with us throughout this process. It’s an exciting time at Foodlink, and we can’t wait to invite everyone in for a tour. 

Video: Executive Director Julia Tedesco talks about the Community Kitchen

Other videos are available on Foodlink’s YouTube channel

Festival of Food is fast approaching; Check out the roster!


The Festival of Food is less than a week away — a hard concept to grasp for an event our dedicated staff has been planning for almost half the year. 

If you haven’t purchased your tickets yet … now’s the time. All proceeds from the festival (Sept. 19, 6-9 p.m. at the Public Market) help fund our anti-hunger efforts and more than three dozen food-related programs that help us build healthier communities.

BUY TICKETS: $50 in advance online, $60 at the door

As always, an incredible selection vendors — including restaurants, wineries, breweries, bakeries and specialty food purveyors — will be on hand for our guests to enjoy. Here’s the full list, which at last count totaled 110 options from which Rochester foodies can choose!


A/B Stand
Al’s Stand Café
Amore by Wegmans
Big Tree Inn
Burger Bar by Wegmans
Burgundy Basin
Chef’s Catering
Cooking and Eating Healthy with Phil
Daily Refresher
French Quarter
Freshwise Catering
Gray Ghost Gourmet
Hart’s Local Grocers
Hose 22
James Browns Place
Jetty At The Port
Juan and Maria’s Empanada Shop
Livie’s Jamaican Restaurant & Import Market
Mesa Grande Taqueria
Mise EN Place Market
Munchies Roc City Empanadas
Napa Wood Fired Pizzaria and Bistro
New York Wine & Culinary Center/ Upstairs Bistro
Next Door By Wegmans
Orange Glory
Ox and Stone
Peppa Pot
Sapori Café and Catering
SEA Restaurant
The Cub Room
The Pub by Wegmans
The Rabbit Room
Warfields Bistro
West Edge Restaurant and Lounge


Amazing Grains Bakery
Badass Power Cookie
Brians Kitchen
Brown Sugar Pastries
Cheesy Eddie’s
Donna Marie’s Gluten Free Bakery
Get Caked
Hedonist Artisan Ice Cream
Hetties Delites
Moonlight Creamery
Small World Bakery
Special Touch Bakery
Sugary Delights

Food trucks

Effortlessly Healthy
Empire Bar and Grill
Neno’s Food Truck

Non-alcoholic beverages

Hallelujah Heritage Teas
Happy Earth Tea
Ouzon Soda
Red Jacket Orchards
Union Place Coffee

Specialty Foods

Chef Lerman
Cosimano & Ferrari Olive Oil Company
F. Olivers Oils and Vinegars
Fare Game Food co.
Florida Nut House
Gawalli Pasta
Go Veggies
Mountain Rise Organics
Once Again Nut Butter
Small World Fermentary
Stuarts Spices

Alcoholic beverages

Anthony Road Winery
Apple Country Spirits
Black Button Distillery
Blue Toad Hard Cider
Casa Larga Vineyards
CB Craft Brewers
Embark Craft Ciderworks
Fulkerson Winery
Genesee Brew House
Heron Hill Winery
Honeoye Falls Distillery
Inspire Moore Winery
Knucklehead Craft Brewing
Lyonsmith Brewing
Montezuma Winery
Naked Dove
Nedloh Brewing
Red Tail Ridge Winery
Roc Brewing Co.
Rohrbach Brewing Co.
Rootstock Ciderworks
Swiftwater Brewing Co.
Three Brothers Winery
Three Heads Brewing


Wegmans Organic Farms

Hunger Action Month is here

ICON - Battery (Twitter or Facebook link)

For food banks around the country, September is a big deal.

Hunger Action Month is a time for Foodlink and the Feeding America network to mobilize the public to take action on the issue of hunger and food insecurity in the United States. More than 48 million Americans suffer from food insecurity, meaning they lack reliable access to a sufficient amount of affordable, nutritious food. In other words, they may not know when or where they are getting their next meal.

In Foodlink’s 10-county service area, 12.5 percent of the population (1 in 8 people) are considered food insecure. For children, that statistic rises to 1 in 5.

How can you help make a difference and help Foodlink end hunger? You can start by visiting Foodlink’s website for a few recommendations:

Home Depot employees proudly support Hunger Action Month. Orange is their favorite color!

Home Depot employees proudly support Hunger Action Month. Orange is their favorite color!

For more information about Hunger Action Month on a national level, visit

Progress Report: Community Kitchen update (August)

Inside Foodlink's new Community Kitchen.

Inside Foodlink’s new Community Kitchen.


For a split second, I lost my tour guide.

While I fiddled with my phone, he walked through a doorway, around a corner and was gone. It was brief and it was uneventful, but it was also telling of recent progress made in Foodlink’s Community Kitchen.

Yes, if you’re looking for a pretty clear indicator of how much our 28,000-square-foot space has transformed in the last month, it’s the fact that one could, potentially, get lost in it. What was once the worst hide-and-seek venue around, is now a maze of hallways, doorways and rooms.

Even better, we’re starting to get a sneak peek at some of the fancy equipment that will help our staff serve up even more nutritious meals and slice more local apples for Rochester’s children. The automated apple-slicing line, simply put, is massive. Although it is still sitting in our distribution center in pieces, one colleague told me it looked like a dinosaur, while another compared it to a dragon. It’s a sight to behold.

One piece of our new apple-slicing line.

One piece of our new apple-slicing line.

The crane at work on Aug. 4 at Foodlink.

The crane at work on Aug. 4 at Foodlink.

And speaking of big, a crane visited Foodlink on Aug. 4 to lift vital pieces of kitchen equipment onto our rooftop. Refrigerator condensers, HVAC systems and other mechanical equipment are now ready to go.

Other new developments include:

  • The construction of our various coolers and freezers, for which 70 percent of the panels have been installed.
  • Most of the walls have been framed, dry-walled and insulated. The last step is what is called “fiberglass-reinforced plastic” (FRP) panels, which are often installed in facilities with a high demand for hygiene and durability.
  • Massive kitchen hoods, which provide proper ventilation, are in place.
  • Ninety percent of all duct work is complete and nearly all of the electrical wiring is done.
The ventilation hoods have been installed in the main kitchen area.

The ventilation hoods have been installed in the main kitchen area.

Foodlink’s Community Kitchen is starting to look like a kitchen. It’s a project that will do amazing things for Foodlink, Rochester, and our neighbors in need. As Chief Program Officer Mitch Gruber put it, “there’s nothing that is more impactful than a kitchen that can serve healthy meals to kids in low-income households and employ people to do that very work.”

(You can listen to those words in the first installment in what will be a series of video shorts from Foodlink staff members on our Facebook page and on Twitter.)

 Watching the Community Kitchen transform month by month since our groundbreaking is a privilege. Even if it means getting lost once in a while.

The opening in this wall is where apples will enter our Community Kitchen. The opening in this wall is where apples will enter our Community Kitchen.

Curbside Market celebrates third vehicle, joins new SNAP incentive program

Chief Program Officer Mitch Gruber discusses the third Curbside Market vehicle and the Double Up Food Bucks program Aug. 16 at Andrews Terrace in Rochester.

Chief Program Officer Mitch Gruber discusses the third Curbside Market vehicle and the Double Up Food Bucks program Aug. 16 at Andrews Terrace in Rochester.

Foodlink’s Curbside Market, which brings fresh, affordable produce into low-income, underserved communities, made a “double” announcement Aug. 16 that will benefit its growing customer base.

At Andrews Terrace, one of the most popular Curbside stops, Foodlink officials and other major stakeholders gathered to celebrate the completion of the program’s third vehicle – a wheelchair-accessible truck that debuted this summer. In addition, Foodlink announced it has joined the nationally recognized program, Double Up Food Bucks, which offers significant savings to customers who use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly called food stamps.  

PHOTOS: Check out our album on Facebook

“The Curbside Market has proven to be the most effective way to make healthy, affordable food available in low-income communities throughout the greater-Rochester area,” said Mitch Gruber, Chief Program Officer at Foodlink. “We are confident that this new vehicle and our partnership with Double Up Food Bucks will allow us to reach more people and provide greater savings to those who need it most.”

After an early-morning downpour, the skies cleared for Foodlink’s announcement, which was moved outside adjacent to the vehicle near the corner of St. Paul and Andrews streets. Many Andrews Terrace residents eagerly listened to the news, as they waited in line for their weekly selection of Curbside’s fresh produce. 

WHERE’S CURBSIDE? Rochester/Monroe County schedule / Outlying counties schedule

Customers get ready to board the Curbside Market on Aug. 16 at Andrews Terrace in Rochester.

Customers get ready to board the Curbside Market on Aug. 16 at Andrews Terrace in Rochester.

The Curbside Market delivers fruits and vegetables into communities that lack access to them. Residents who live in USDA-defined “food deserts” often don’t have the means to purchase healthy food at affordable prices. The market makes weekly visits to more than 60 locations such as affordable housing communities, senior living facilities and federally-qualified health centers. In 2015, the program served more than 15,000 customers and sold nearly 125,000 pounds of produce at 102 sites.

The new truck was funded through partnerships with the Greater Rochester Health Foundation and Citizens Bank.

“We know that our community can only thrive if our residents are healthy,” said Heidi Burke, Senior Program Officer at the Greater Rochester Health Foundation. “This new Curbside Market truck will provide fresh, wholesome food options for even more Rochester families.”

A view inside the newest member of the Curbside Market fleet.

A view inside the newest member of the Curbside Market fleet.

Construction was completed over the summer by M Design Vehicles, which constructs many of the food trucks seen around Rochester. A commercial-grade refrigerator and racking were installed – as was a generator, new lighting and a sink. Customers have access to a wheelchair lift, a wider aisle, and have the opportunity to shop from outside the vehicle for the first time thanks to several outward-facing produce bins.

“We’re proud to partner with Foodlink and are excited to see this new, state-of-the-art truck getting on the road and serving our community,” said Paul Taffe, President of Citizens Bank, New York. “Curbside provides a vital service that so many families in our community rely on and we’re happy to play a role in its growth and success.”

Many of the SNAP-eligible customers who shop at the new Curbside Market vehicle will benefit greatly from the Double Up Food Bucks program, a Michigan-based program created by the Fair Food Network that was introduced into western New York by the Field & Fork Network through a Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant from the USDA. The program doubles the value (maximum of $10 per day) of federal assistance dollars spent at participating farmers markets. The program has now expanded into 19 states.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Foodlink and their Curbside Market program to bring our successful nutrition incentive, Double Up Food Bucks, to the Rochester community,” said Lisa Tucker, co-founder and Executive Director of the Field & Fork Network. “We believe access to affordable fresh foods should be available for everyone. We look forward to what we hope will be a beneficial partnership for the entire Rochester community.”

An enlarged view of a Double Up Food Bucks coupon.

An enlarged view of a Double Up Food Bucks coupon.

Curbside Market, which now operates a year-round schedule, began as a Rochester-centric enterprise, but has now expanded into eight of the 10 counties in Foodlink’s service area. It made its first stops in Seneca and Yates counties this summer. Produce options rotate based on the season and the truck often accommodates requests for special appearances at festivals, fairs and pilot sites. 

“On behalf of the citizens of Rochester, I thank Foodlink for providing even more resources that will give residents greater access to healthy foods, fresh produce, and good nutrition,” Mayor Lovely Warren said. “As we work in Rochester to create safer streets, more jobs for our citizens and better educational opportunities for our children – increasing access to a healthy lifestyle is key to these efforts. Foodlink is making our community stronger by bringing much-needed services to areas of need.”

The market also welcomes Foodlink’s nutrition educators to various sites, so customers can gain tips on saving money and preparing delicious, nutritious meals. The current schedule, which can be found at, runs through November before it is altered for the winter months.

“Today’s announcement represents not only our vision of a healthy, hunger-free community, but about how far Foodlink has come in recent years,” said Executive Director Julia Tedesco. “Foodlink is our region’s food bank, but we consider ourselves a community food resource center and a public health organization tasked with improving the lives of our neighbors by leveraging food to build the physical, social, and financial health of our region.”

For more information about the Curbside Market, visit For more information about the Double Up Food Bucks program in New York, visit


The new vehicle, middle, pictured with the other two Curbside trucks at Foodlink's headquarters on Mt. Read Boulevard.

The new vehicle, middle, pictured with the other two Curbside trucks at Foodlink’s headquarters on Mt. Read Boulevard.

Celebrating National Farmers Market Week


Foodlink is joining a chorus of agriculturally-conscious organizations across the country in celebration of National Farmers Market Week (Aug. 7-13).

In recent years, Foodlink has strategically aimed to distribute more local produce to our network of human service agencies and through a multitude of food access programs. Initiatives such as the Curbside Market, Urban Farm Stands and our Garden Project have all contributed to this movement’s success.

Foodlink is also a member of the Rochester Farmers Market SNAP Collaborative, which promotes the use of SNAP benefits at area farmers markets. The Curbside Market joins the City of Rochester Public Market and the Westside, South Wedge and Brighton farmers markets in this important initiative that incentivizes SNAP users to buy healthy, local food. 

This year, the week-long celebration is highlighting five key ways in which farmers markets benefit our country. Farmers markets:

  • Preserve America’s rural livelihoods and farmland
  • Stimulate local economies
  • Increase access to fresh, nutritious food
  • Support healthy communities
  • Promote sustainability

According to USDA statistics, there are more than 8,500 farmers markets nationwide – a 60 percent increase since 2009. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack signed a proclamation declaring National Farmers Market Week, saying:

“Farmers markets are an important part of strong local and regional food systems that connect farmers with new customers and grow rural economies.”

For more information about how Foodlink promotes farmers markets in its 10-county service area, visit the Food Access page on its website. And get out there and support our local farmers markets!