Foodlink, Rep. Morelle welcome in Hunger Action Month with push for SNAP advocacy

In collaboration with Foodlink, the following press release was sent Sept. 3, 2019, by the office of U.S. Rep. Joseph Morelle:

ROCHESTER – Today, Congressman Joe Morelle along with Foodlink, The Children’s Agenda, members of the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI), and community stakeholders announced their strong opposition to the President’s proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and submitted public comment outlining their concerns. The proposed rule could cause an estimated 3.1 million people nationwide—including at least 87,000 New Yorkers—to lose access to SNAP benefits, jeopardizing their ability to provide food for themselves and their families.

SUBMIT A COMMENT: Take action before the Sept. 23 deadline

“This unconscionable proposal demonstrates an utter disregard for the needs of everyday families and would serve only to pull the rug out from under millions of Americans in their time of need,” said Rep. Morelle. “The 87,000 New Yorkers who rely on these essential benefits for food security deserve better. We must work to every day to uplift the most vulnerable in our community and eliminate the barriers that prevent them from thriving.”

“Any threat to SNAP is a threat to the work we do and the people we serve every day,” said Julia Tedesco, President & CEO of Foodlink, Rochester’s regional food bank. “SNAP provides nearly 10 times the amount of meals to the American public than the entire Feeding America network. Cuts to this vital anti-poverty program would put an overwhelming burden on the emergency food system, and risk the health and well-being of thousands of families in our area.”

READ: Foodlink’s full statement

“For millions of Americans affected by poverty, the first step on the path toward self-sufficiency comes when they can move beyond the crisis and daily trauma of food insecurity. Eliminating the Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility Option would create a much steeper path to self-sufficiency for many families who rely on SNAP benefits, stripping their ability to build savings for emergencies and adding unnecessary roadblocks,” said Jerome Underwood, Co-Chair of the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative. “It also subjects children and their families to the many negative health and mental health effects that come with food insecurity. We must stand together as a community to protect our most vulnerable neighbors and oppose this proposed change.”

“The Trump administration’s proposed changes to SNAP will harm thousands of low-income children and families in our community,” said Larry Marx, CEO of The Children’s Agenda. “Research shows that food security is critical to giving children the best possible start to life. Our nation’s leaders should ensure that vulnerable children and families are able to thrive, not look for ways to remove critical food supports. This proposed rule jeopardizes the health and wellbeing of children, and we urge the Trump administration to reverse it immediately.”

Congressman Morelle joined community partners at Foodlink to help mark the start of Hunger Action Month — an annual campaign spearheaded by Feeding America every September to raise awareness about hunger in our communities – and urge the President to rescind his proposed SNAP change.
The proposed rule change would eliminate broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE) for SNAP benefits, leaving New York seniors, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and working families without adequate access to food assistance. In addition, it would put those in SNAP eligible households at risk of losing free school meals.

The cost savings of the change would come at a significant cost to the health and well-being of citizens in Rochester and communities like it nationwide.

Rep. Morelle as well as representatives from Foodlink, RMAPI, The Children’s Agenda, and a number of community stakeholders have submitted public comment urging the President and the Department of Agriculture to rescind this rule immediately.

The public comment period closes on September 23. Online comment can be submitted here.

Foodlink statement in response to the USDA’s proposed rule to revise SNAP eligibility

Foodlink, the regional food bank based in Rochester, NY, strongly opposes the USDA’s proposed rule (RIN 0584-AE62) to revise regulations related to Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE) requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Our federal government should seek ways to reduce barriers for low-income Americans who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. This proposal does the opposite.

SUBMIT A COMMENT: Visit Regulations.gov

We ask that you consider the benefits and true intention of BBCE before revising it and jeopardizing 3.1 million Americans’ access to SNAP – one of the country’s most successful anti-poverty programs that, until recent years, gained support from both sides of the aisle. In New York alone, more than 87,000 people would lose SNAP solely based on income limits[i]. Many more would lose benefits due to the re-imposition of an assets test. The end result will be increased food insecurity and more families living in poverty.

There are several attributes about BBCE that have gained bipartisan support for decades. To cite a few examples, BBCE:

  • Encourages work and upward mobility. The working poor depend on SNAP to make ends meet. When an individual receives a modest pay increase and moves above the threshold for SNAP eligibility (130% of the poverty line), BBCE prevents that household from seeing a net decrease in funds due to what’s called the “benefits cliff.” Rather than eliminating SNAP for these hard-working individuals, BBCE reduces SNAP incrementally until the household achieves financial stability.
  • Helps families avoid disaster when sudden hardships arise. SNAP imposes asset limits on households enrolled in the program, meaning recipients often have little savings to guard against unexpected financial setbacks, such as medical bills or natural disaster. Rather than forcing families to spend down assets to qualify for SNAP, BBCE allows families to save money, and protect themselves against a sudden expense. Often times, when these hardships arise, the food budget is sacrificed.
  • Reduces administrative costs for safety-net programs. According to a comprehensive study by Mathematica Policy Research, only 3 percent of all SNAP individuals would be income ineligible if noncash BBCE were eliminated. So rather than “close the loophole” for the 3 percent, the administration is also penalizing the other 97 percent of individuals who would otherwise qualify for SNAP, resulting in additional paperwork, time and expense. In addition, losing SNAP also would require some families to reapply for free school meals – another unnecessary, bureaucratic barrier for food-insecure families. This could affect 500,000 children nationally[ii]. We don’t need our most vulnerable children falling through the cracks unnecessarily due to administrative barriers to accessing food assistance.

As one of 200 food banks in the Feeding America network, we know first-hand that charity alone cannot solve hunger in the United States. SNAP provides nearly 10 times the meals that our network of 60,000+ food pantries and meal programs provides to Americans on a daily basis[iii]. Our network could not withstand such a devastating cut to SNAP.

We ask that you also consider the true cost of this proposal. The $2.5 billion in annual programmatic savings the administration is expected to see likely doesn’t consider the cost of increasing food insecurity and poverty across the nation. Food-insecure children don’t perform well in school and are less likely to graduate. Food-insecure adults and seniors are more likely to incur higher health care costs related to diet-related illness. Yes, SNAP savings will be achieved, but the health and well-being of our communities will suffer. 

Furthermore, dismantling this program will be costly for the 40 states that have adopted it. To quote the Urban Institute’s Elaine Waxman, who gave detailed Congressional testimony about BBCE in June:

“Because such a wide variety of states and territories have elected to use BBCE, it is reasonable to conclude that states find it a very important lever for responding to the challenges facing low‐income families and for streamlining their administrative processes. Because so many states have built their procedures, information systems, and training around BBCE, removing or significantly restricting it will likely be costly and disruptive.”[iv]

Finally, we are discouraged by the tactics and messaging employed by the administration in an attempt to sell this proposal as “good government” to the American public. First, labeling the entirety of BBCE as a “loophole” – as Secretary Perdue did three times within the first minute of his prepared remarks – does a disservice to the intent and achievements of the program. This rhetoric implies that people are enrolling in SNAP with little oversight, when, in fact, people still must go through the application process to receive benefits.

The rhetoric also implies that the now infamous “Minnesota millionaire” is the norm, rather than the exception. Using this man – an extreme outlier – as a mascot for a program that, in fact, helps millions of low-income Americans put food on the table, is a shameful tactic we’ve seen before with the “Welfare Queen” from the 80s and Fox News’ “Lobster Surfer” from 5 years ago.

In conclusion, the administration’s multiple attempts to weaken vital safety net programs jeopardizes the health and economic prosperity of millions of Americans. We have great concern with the dismantling of a program that would directly impact so many of the people we serve. SNAP has proven itself for decades to be one of the most effective anti-poverty programs our nation has ever seen. It should be strengthened, not slashed. 

Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments on this issue.


[i] https://hungersolutionsny.org/snap-policy/snap-cat-el-rule/

[ii] https://edlabor.house.gov/imo/media/doc/2019-07-26%20Chairman%20Scott%20to%20Secretary%20Perdue%20SNAP%20Cat%20El%20Proposed%20Rule%5b1%5d.pdf

[iii] https://www.feedingamerica.org/about-us/press-room/feeding-america-statement-usda-proposal-restrict-snap-eligibility

[iv] https://agriculture.house.gov/uploadedfiles/hhrg-116-ag03-wstate-waxmane-20190620.pdf

The Darden Foundation awards $6,000 grant to Foodlink

Foodlink has been awarded a $6,000 grant from The Darden Foundation to help provide hunger-relief to Rochester-area families. The funds will be used to support Foodlink’s Mobile Pantry program, which connects underserved neighborhoods and communities with large distributions of food on a monthly or bimonthly basis.

Foodlink, a member of the Feeding America® network, is one of 193 food banks to receive this funding from The Darden Foundation. According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap report, more than 145,000 people in Foodlink’s 10-county service area are considered food insecure.

The Darden Foundation is committed to supporting families facing food insecurity in communities across the United States. Their commitment to help is demonstrated through their partnership with Feeding America and their network of 200 food banks across the nation.

Feeding America has worked alongside The Darden Foundation for seven years in the fight to end hunger. Thanks to their ongoing support, the Feeding America network has been able to help provide even more meals to families in need.

Foodlink Career Fellowship welcomes newest class

A new chapter has begun for the Foodlink Career Fellowship.

Andrew, Brandi, Eric, Gerquan, Javia, Jimmy, Jojo, Tyeasha and Wayne began their journey last week toward successful careers in the regional food industry. Orientation was held July 26, when the Fellows learned the basics of the program and got to know one another. On July 27, they began work inside the Foodlink Community Kitchen, preparing meals for the Summer Meals program.

The second class began just about a month after the inaugural class graduated. This new group will go through a similar curriculum, however, this year each participant is considered an apprentice. The program earned recognition in early 2019 as a New York State Registered Apprenticeship Training program.

Check out some photos from orientation and the first day on the job!

KaBOOM! Foodlink to expand play space at Lexington Ave. Community Farm

The Lexington Avenue Community Farm received its largest grant in history last month from the KaBOOM! Play Everywhere Challenge.

Foodlink proposed to build off the early phases of its pocket park and play space, and create more opportunities for play in the area surrounding the farm on Lexington Avenue. The space will feature log and boulder-based climbers and steps, labyrinths, public art and wayfinding features.

The total grant award is $54,550.

MORE: Learn more about the award winners

KaBOOM! and the Built to Play initiative, supported by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, have announced the winners for 22 projects totaling $1 million spanning from western New York to Southeast Michigan of the second Play Everywhere Challenge. Other winning projects included one from Healthi Kids in Rochester, Camp Puzzle Peace, Inc. in Wyoming County, Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council in Genesee County, and GLOW YMCA in Orleans County.

The Play Everywhere Challenge invited communities to submit creative design ideas that make it easier for families to incorporate play into everyday moments.

The Lexington Avenue Community Farm serves 65 families in northwest Rochester, most of which come from the local refugee population. The farm is a community garden for residents, a space for Foodlink to grow produce for its programs and partners, and a play space for local children.

Wayne County now third in nation in apple growing

Did you know that Wayne County were its own state, it would rank fourth in the NATION in apple growing?

Data from the latest U.S. Agriculture Census (2017) was released this spring, and our neighbors to the east in Wayne County made some impressive gains as the state’s epicenter of apples. There are 23,685 acres of apple farms in Wayne County, which makes it the third-highest apple producing county in the country. That’s an improvement from the last Census, in which they ranked fourth.

Unsurprisingly, Washington leads the country — by a wide margin. New York is next in line, followed by Michigan, Pennsylvania and California. Wayne County accounts for nearly half of all apple farm acreage in New York.

Check out the charts below for the top 5 states and counties for apple farm acreage, as of 2017:

States

Washington        179,899

New York             50,450

Michigan              38,563

Pennsylvania     22,513

California             13,637

Counties

Yakima                  WA         58,670

Grant                    WA         51,093

Wayne                  NY          23,685

Okanogan           WA         15,856

Adams                  PA          13,160

Inaugural class of the Foodlink Career Fellowship celebrates graduation, launch of new careers

They came to Foodlink in search of opportunity. Now – a year later – eight members of the Foodlink Career Fellowship have graduated with improved culinary skills, confidence, and hope for what the future holds.

Thursday’s graduation ceremony at the City of Rochester Public Market marked the culmination of the inaugural year of the program, which trains individuals who have experienced barriers to employment for middle-skills careers in the regional food industry. Fellows were nominated by a community-based organization and went through a rigorous curriculum that includes classroom instruction, on-the-job training in the Foodlink Community Kitchen, and a three-month externship at Wegmans Food Markets.

PHOTOS: Check out the photo gallery on our Facebook page!

NOMINATE A FELLOW: Foodlink Career Fellowship is currently accepting nominations for its second class. Email Jes Scannell (jscannell@foodlinkny.org), Director of Career Empowerment Initiatives, to receive a nomination packet.

“This is a proud moment for these eight individuals – and for our entire organization,” said Julia Tedesco, President & CEO of Foodlink. “This is one of the most innovative programs we’ve ever launched in our 40-year history, and it truly demonstrates our commitment to addressing the root causes of hunger in our communities. We’re inspired by the dedication and commitment shown by this first graduating class.”

The Foodlink Career Fellowship began last July after more than two years of preparation by Foodlink’s staff and several community stakeholders. Foodlink sought to maximize its recent investment in a $5 million commercial kitchen by training people for living-wage careers, and helping them avoid dependency on the emergency food system. While food banking remains the core of Foodlink’s operations, addressing the root causes of hunger through the launch of other food-related programs has been a priority for the past decade.

“Our Fellows made a lot of sacrifices, put in a ton of work, and really challenged themselves to explore new growth opportunities for themselves personally and professionally,” said Jes Scannell, Foodlink’s Director of Career Empowerment Initiatives. “Today, we both celebrate their achievements and recognize that this is just the beginning of their careers as culinarians.”

The inaugural class includes: Jehmel Alexander, Anthony Arroyo, Kristen Gates, LaRhonda ‘Rudy’ Harris, Bre’Onn Hepburn, Da’Quan Quick, Gloria Soldevila Ramos, and Jenna Raymond Torres. Alexander, Arroyo, Gates, Harris and Soldevila Ramos were offered positions at Wegmans, while three others are still progressing through the final stages of the program. 

“The past year has been quite a journey, but I made it,” Harris said. “I love putting on my Wegmans chef coat every day because it’s my way of showing my three kids how to be a stronger person, and how to achieve your goals.”

Wegmans was instrumental in developing the structure for the Fellowship, and – of course – hosting the externship. Chefs at several store locations and restaurants served as vital mentors as the Fellows navigated the rigors of full-time work in the kitchen.

“It’s been a pleasure watching this first class of Fellows grow and mature as culinary professionals,” said Chef Donald Harter, Director of Asian & Sushi for Wegmans Food Markets. “This has been an exciting and collaborative partnership for us, and we’re thrilled to welcome many of them to the Wegmans family.”

The launch of the program was made possible through private funding from the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund, William and Sheila Konar Foundation, and ESL Charitable Foundation. The Konar Foundation recently granted Foodlink a second gift of $150,000 to support the Fellowship’s second class, set to begin this summer.

“The Konar Foundation chose to support the launch of the Foodlink Career Fellowship because of its focus on providing a pathway to prosperity,” said Howard Konar, trustee for the William & Sheila Konar Foundation. “Congratulations to the program’s inaugural graduates. We wish them all the best as they realize their true potential in the regional food industry.”

On Thursday, Fellows were called one by one to accept their certificates in front of friends, family members and supporters, including many of the agencies that nominated them. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was also in attendance, praising the inaugural class and delivering remarks about the state’s commitment to workforce development initiatives. Earlier this year, the Fellowship was recognized as an official New York State apprenticeship program.

“The Foodlink Career Fellowship is a great workforce development tool, providing students with the culinary and leadership skills they need,” Hochul said. “Members of the program received on-the-job training in the field and are prepared for good jobs at companies like Wegmans and others. We want to make sure all New Yorkers have the access and resources they need to be trained to fill jobs in the agriculture and culinary industry across the state.”

Foodlink is actively recruiting for its second class and is accepting nominations for prospective applicants until July 1. Anyone interested in learning more about the program or nominating a Fellow should contact Jes Scannell at jscannell@foodlinkny.org.

Foodlink 2019 Mobile Summer Meals schedule

Rochester’s Summer Meals program is officially underway, and the Foodlink Community Kitchen is pleased once again to prepare thousands of delicious, nutritious meals at dozens of sites all over Rochester this summer.

Foodlink is a key partner in the Summer Meals Partnership of Rochester, which ensures that kids 18 and under have access to free meals throughout the summer, when students lose access to school meals, and parents face the financial burden of increased grocery bills.

MAP/LIST OF SITES: Find out where kids can access Summer Meals

In addition to the regular schedule, Foodlink operates a Summer Meals van and visits libraries and parks to offer a “mobile meals” component to the program. The 2019 schedule is above.

The sites listed run from June 26 through August 30, Monday through Friday.

Farash Foundation grant allows Foodlink to expand reach into more RCSD schools

The East High pantry has been partnering with Foodlink to provide food for nearly 200 students each year.

The Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation has awarded Foodlink $25,000 to help expand and launch multiple school pantries within the Rochester City School District.

The grant allows RCSD Community Schools to join Foodlink as member agencies, and purchase vital equipment, supplies and food for their students. The RCSD’s Community Schools adopt a more holistic approach to education and help connect families to a wide array of services, so that educators can focus on teaching and students can focus on learning.

“Food insecurity is a barrier to academic success for thousands of local students,” said Holli Budd, Executive Director of the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation. “We’re proud to support Foodlink and the Rochester City School District to ensure that Rochester’s future leaders have the nourishment they need to thrive.”

East High – one of 10 designated Community Schools – has already partnered with Foodlink to implement their onsite school food and resource pantry. Mary Mcleod Bethune School No. 45 joined Foodlink’s network in 2018.

“Unfortunately, material insecurity is a reality for many of our scholars,” said Jason Taylor, Community Coordinator for East’s Upper and Lower schools. “Each year around 180 scholars access our pantry to alleviate their food insecurity. Not only does this food serve these scholars, but it also supports around 800 of their family members. Having a school pantry as a resource allows scholars to focus on what they should be doing in school, like learning and growing, rather than worrying about where their next meal is going to come from.”

Other schools that will become new Foodlink member agencies through this grant funding include: Nathaniel Rochester Community School No. 3, Roberto Clemente School No. 8, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School No. 9, Enrico Fermi School No. 17, Abraham Lincoln School No. 22, RISE Community School 106, James Monroe High School, and Northeast College High School. RCSD’s Office of Adult & Career Education Services (OACES) also will join its member agency network.  

Aside from establishing a pantry at each school, Foodlink is seeking to broaden the partnership by offering additional programmatic support through its Curbside Market, nutrition education workshops and food safety trainings.

“Expanding our emergency food network into more schools is a deliberate and necessary step for us to ensure students and their families have adequate access to nutritious food,” said Julia Tedesco, Foodlink President & CEO. “We’re so grateful for the Farash Foundation for giving Rochester schools the resources they need to support their students’ basic needs.”

Foodlink awarded ‘Rooted in Evidence’ grant funding to evaluate new nutrition ranking system

Foodlink is one of five food banks nationwide to receive grant funding through The Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition’s inaugural Rooted in Evidence grant program.

The grant supports food banks currently implementing “innovative and dynamic programming to improve the health and dietary quality of emergency food recipients.” Foodlink’s project includes the evaluation of its new “The Healthy Choice” nutrition ranking system in its network of “Front Door” agencies across its 10-county service area. Funding will help Foodlink understand how improvements to the nutritional quality of the food it receives and distributes will impact pantry- and client-level outcomes.

Funding for this program is provided by the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition Foundation.

The Healthy Choice is a new, evidence-based nutrition ranking system adopted by Foodlink that monitors and improves the proportion of nutritious foods distributed to its network of agencies. Foods are placed in green, yellow and red categories based on their nutritional value, and Foodlink aims to build client-facing messaging to encourage the selection of healthier foods. Foodlink is committed to distributing 95% green- and yellow-ranked foods by 2021.

The Healthy Choice is one component of Foodlink’s new Community Healthy Committment, which was established in 2018 as a means to implement nutrition guidelines for the receipt and distribution of food.

Other food banks that received grant funding include: Food Gatherers (Ann Arbor, Mich.), Montana Food Bank Network (Missoula, Mont.), Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee (Maryville, Tenn.) and Inter-Faith Food Shuttle (Raleigh, N.C.).

Learn more about the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition, and all of the grantees’ projects by visiting: https://www.centerfornutrition.org/rootedinevidence.