A grocery store inside a food bank

Produce on display at Foodlink’s redesigned Shop-Thru space.

In an effort to provide a more welcoming atmosphere for partnering agencies that visit Foodlink, a portion of its distribution center is starting to look less like a warehouse, and more like a grocery store. The first phase of renovations is complete for Foodlink’s “Shop-Thru,” the area designated for local agency representatives to pick up food for their programs. 

For years, Foodlink has given agency representatives the opportunity to access free food items — typically perishable goods with a shorter shelf life — while visiting Foodlink to pick up their regular food orders. The accommodations, however, were not ideal. “Shoppers” entered the warehouse and could pick and choose food from several large totes of goods that rested on various pallets scattered near the doorway.

It was, and still is, known as the “Shop-Thru.” But now, Foodlink is providing a better environment in which to shop. 

Non-perishable goods are sold for 49c/lb at Foodlink’s Shop-Thru.

“Our agencies are able to access a wide variety of healthy foods through our online ordering system, however when most people shop, they like to see and feel the food they’re purchasing,” said Partnership Development Manager Phil Daniel, who oversaw the improvements made to the Shop-Thru area. “This space gives agency representatives the opportunity to access other items – such as fresh produce – at little or no cost in a more comfortable space designed to mimic a grocery store setting.”

Daniel wants local agencies to be aware of the newly organized space, which will eventually expand and relocate to a different area of the distribution center. For now, though, agencies should know a couple basics:

  • Most perishable goods are FREE. That includes all produce, bread and dairy on display.
  • Non-perishable goods, and non-food items, are priced at 49 cents per pound.
  • Protein items (chicken, pork, etc.), which are stored in Foodlink’s walk-in freezer but will be on display in the Shop-Thru, will be available for 49 cents per pound, as well. 
  • The Shop-Thru area is open between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is only available to representatives from Foodlink’s network of partner agencies. 
  • In order to access Shop Thru, agencies must send a representative to one of our monthly Shopper Orientation sessions. These occur on the third Tuesday of every month. Please contact Bryan Stephan at (585) 413-4057 (or bstephan@foodlinkny.org) for information about how to sign up.
  • Shopping is permitted by appointment only. To make one, log-in online through the PWW system, or contact Bryan.

The first phase of this renovation was made possible through generous support from the Kraft Heinz Company Foundation through Feeding America. A portion of the funding from our $15,000 award allowed us to purchase much of the shelving and display units seen in the new space. 

Phase II of our Shop-Thru renovation will happen next, thanks to funding from the state’s Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority

Thank you to all the agencies that help us serve those in need, and share our mission of ending hunger and building healthier communities!

Bread is free at Foodlink’s Shop-Thru.

Non-food items are also available for 49c/lb.

Produce bins give shoppers the opportunity to pick up some free produce.

Funding from the Kraft Heinz Company Foundation allowed us to purchase new displays!


Foodlink’s Community Kitchen: One year later

Andrae Lenear is Foodlink’s Production Supervisor within the Community Kitchen.

The high-tech, high-speed doors snap upward in an instant. As visitors enter the new Foodlink Community Kitchen, they are introduced to a new way of food banking.

Dec. 5, 2017 marks the one-year anniversary of when Foodlink’s staff moved from its former kitchen on Joseph Avenue to its new facility, which occupies 28,000 square feet of space adjacent to Foodlink’s distribution center on Mt. Read Boulevard. While the traditional model of food banking helps alleviate hunger within Foodlink’s 10-county service area, Foodlink’s leaders know solving hunger requires more innovative tactics that address hunger’s root causes, such as food access, poverty and unemployment.

Foodlink, in operation since 1978, is proud to be one of the oldest food banks in the country. Founder Tom Ferraro had served on the first Board of Directors for Feeding America, which was originally known as Second Harvest. His legacy continues to drive Foodlink’s mission, and the creation of this kitchen had been his dream for decades.

PHOTO ALBUM: The staff that turns our mission into a reality

“Tom had always wanted us all under one roof,” said Executive Director Julia Tedesco, noting that the food bank and kitchen had moved around town several times, but were always in different facilities. “What we’ve built here is a tribute to his incomparable drive to build the health and wealth of this community.” 

Visitors who turn the corner after entering the kitchen are quickly introduced to its three primary objectives:

(1) Healthy Meals. Foodlink opened its first community kitchen in 2001 with the goal of raising the bar on institutional food service. Today, Foodlink prepares more than 4,500 nutritious meals daily, and delivers them to schools and after-school sites in Rochester. A staff dietitian helps guide the newly formed Menu Innovation Committee, and production staff now has the benefit of preparing meals with state-of-the-art equipment that rivals any commercial kitchen in the region. 

Mary Cook, right, is one of the prep cooks in Foodlink’s Community Kitchen.

(2) Value-Added Processing. Foodlink feeds people, but also acts as an economic engine thanks to this growing social enterprise. A Cornell University study confirmed in 2011 that children would overwhelmingly prefer to eat sliced apples, rather than whole ones (Many adults do, too!). Foodlink took on this Value-Added Processing (VAP) initiative the following year to help many local farms reach new markets, and provide healthier snack options for local students. Soon, our sliced apple operations will pave the way for Foodlink to pilot other processing needs, such as carrot sticks and cucumber coins. 

Earl Whitaker is a production assistant in Foodlink’s VAP Center.

(3) Workforce Development. How do we best serve those in need? By making sure families no longer need us. The best social program we can offer food-insecure people, as Ferraro was fond of saying, is a living-wage job. Foodlink aims to meet this need by launching a one-of-a-kind culinary training program, created to meet targeted workforce needs in the Finger Lakes region. The first class of participants is scheduled to begin training in April of 2018.

A quick loop around the kitchen addresses these main objectives, and visitors are typically led back into the distribution center to finish up the tour – once again through those impressive doors that amaze third-graders and business leaders alike.

“Touring community partners and stakeholders through our kitchen allows them to see first-hand how far we’ve evolved as a food bank,” Tedesco said. “While racks of food several stories high is still an impressive sight in our warehouse, we hope our kitchen has transformed the way people think about Foodlink as a regional food hub that serves this community.”

Quanmain Harmon is a kitchen driver tasked with delivering meals safely to dozens of sites around Rochester.