Foodlink provides welcome baskets for families that fled Puerto Rico for Rochester

When a natural disaster strikes, it’s common for food banks to mobilize to meet the rising food needs of a community as rebuilding efforts get underway and lives get pieced back together. 

The devastation in Puerto Rico has resulted in a full-scale effort by the Feeding America network to help the island clean up in the wake of Hurricane Maria. For some, staying on the island was not an option. Rochester, home to an already strong Puerto Rican community, became their new home — at least temporarily. 

The Rochester City School District is trying to welcome these families — about 35 of them –with open arms by inviting them to Saturday’s Latino Parent Conference, an event organized by the district’s Office of Parent Engagement and the Bilingual Education Council. Foodlink was approached with the opportunity to provide basic food items for these families, and delivered those baskets to the David F. Gantt Center on Friday afternoon. 

Volunteers from The Arc of Monroe helped us assemble the baskets on Friday morning.

“We would like to provide some of the families with a few needed resources and we would like them to feel welcome to our district and community,” said Maria Encarnacion with the RCSD’s Office of Parent Engagement.

Foodlink baskets included several staple items, such as cereal, pasta, sauce, peanut butter, raisins and other snack items. Blankets and Wegmans gift cards were also included. Volunteers from The Arc of Monroe helped assemble the baskets on Friday morning at Foodlink’s distribution center. 

“Helping these families was a no-brainer for us,” said Chief Programs Officer Mitch Gruber. “We can’t imagine the hardships that so many Puerto Rican families have faced this past month and we hope these baskets allow our newest neighbors to adjust to life in Rochester a little easier.” 

Since Maria caused widespread devastation in Puerto Rico and Dominica, Foodlink has engaged with local groups’ hunger relief efforts, and has sent food and supplies to both areas. 

Saturday’s event is at 11 a.m. at the Gantt Center (700 North St.), where Latino parents can learn ways to support their children’s education. There will be student performances, door prizes, food and a raffle. Transportation and child care is available if requested. Contact the Office of Parent Engagement for more information: (585) 262-8334.

Foodlink’s Lexington Avenue Urban Farm vandalized

Some plants, such as the eggplants pictured above, were damaged inside the hoop house at the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm Oct. 13-14.

Foodlink staff, volunteers and gardeners are assessing the damage done this past weekend to the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm, Foodlink’s community garden in northwest Rochester. 

Between Friday night and Saturday morning (Oct. 13-14), vandals apparently broke in and vandalized the 1.3-acre garden that provides food for many refugee families in the neighborhood, as well as some of Foodlink’s programs. Sections of the fence were damaged, sheds were broken into and some gardening equipment was stolen, including a weed wacker. The exterior walls of the hoop house were slashed, and several fruit trees were damaged. Foodlink has estimated the cost of the damage at $1,000, however it’s too early to tell just how many of the trees won’t survive. 

HOW TO HELP: Donate to the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm
(On Foodlink’s online donation page, you can designate your gift directly to the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm.)


“While we’re discouraged about this weekend’s vandalism at the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm, we still remain very committed to supporting urban agriculture in this community,” said Mitch Gruber, Chief Programs Officer at Foodlink. “This farm will yield more than 5,000 pounds of food for dozens of low-income, refugee families by the end of the growing season. This incident will not deter us from our mission of improving food access for vulnerable populations and building healthier communities throughout Rochester.”

The incident got a significant amount of media attention, which has led to several inquiries from community members about how they can support the farm, and help Foodlink make the necessary repairs. Foodlink is also exploring new security measures, such as cameras, to deter any future incidents. All monetary donations can be made through our online donation page by selecting “Lexington Avenue Urban Farm” in the designation menu.

For those interested in volunteering or if any businesses are interested in donating fruit trees, you can reach out directly to Nathaniel Mich at 

MORE PHOTOS: Visit the farm’s Facebook page