Foodlink attends Feeding NYS Lobby Day in Albany

Foodlink joined is food banking colleagues from around the state on Wednesday for a day of meetings with state assemblymembers and senators about Feeding New York State’s budget priorities for 2020.

Foodlink is one of nine food banks that comprise Feeding New York State (formerly the Food Bank Association of New York State). The top priority for the association is adequate funding for the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP). This line item in the state Department of Health’s budget provides vital funding to food banks — and their members — across the state.

The food banks’ argument is simple cause and effect. SNAP cuts proposed by the federal government — one of which is already scheduled to take effect April 1 — will undoubtedly force a strain on food banks and the entire emergency food system. Feeding NYS is advocating for the state to restore $500,000 in funding that was removed in the governor’s budget, and another $6 million to offset the increased need that will result from thousands of New Yorkers losing their SNAP benefits in 2020.

Feeding NYS is also pushing for a initiative to streamline its sourcing of state-grown produce and dairy. In a proposal to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, Feeding NYS requested $6 million to support local farmers, and gain efficiencies in distributing more dairy and produce within the emergency food system.

Foodlink discussed these proposals, and others, with three members of the assembly and two senators. They were: Assemblymember Harry Bronson (Rochester), Assemblymember Stephen Hawley (Monroe, Orleans, Genesee), Assemblymember Brian Manktelow (Wayne), Senator Joe Robach (Rochester) and Senator George Borello (Allegany, Livingston).

Prior to the meetings, Feeding NYS hosted a morning meeting with other legislators that included Assemblywoman Michaelle Solage, Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, and Senator Liz Krueger.

Sen. Krueger’s story was fascinating. Her origins are in food banking, having started as a volunteer with the Cleveland Food Bank in the early 80s. It wasn’t too long before she was recommended to lead efforts to launch a program to distribute surplus U.S. commodities to the growing number of food banks (back then, only 6 states had food banks). The program is now known as The Emergency Food Assistance Program — a massive USDA program that provides 200 food banks nationwide with about 15-20% of their food.

Krueger then went on to become a founding member of The Food Bank of New York City, before moving on to roles as an anti-poverty advocate, the Associate Director of the Community Food Resource Center (CFRC), and then a state representative for District 28 – the east side of Manhattan.

NYS awards Foodlink nearly $1M in Workforce Development Initiative funding

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul visited Foodlink Monday to announce multiple grant award winners from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Workforce Development Initiative.

Foodlink is receiving a nearly $1 million award to support the Foodlink Career Fellowship, a one-of-a-kind culinary training program that creates pathways to prosperity for individuals with barriers to sustainable employment. The program was recognized by the Department of Labor in 2019 as the state’s first and only registered cook apprenticeship. Funding allows Foodlink to sustain and expand the program, starting with the recruitment and launch its third class of participants this summer, and a fourth class in early 2021.

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“Putting people first is central to our mission,” said Julia Tedesco, President & CEO of Foodlink. “The Foodlink Career Fellowship epitomizes our belief that our role as an organization extends well beyond food banking. We nourish thousands of people on a daily basis, but also create opportunities for individuals to be empowered with the skills they need for a healthier future. We’re forever grateful that the state has recognized the potential of this innovative program to spur economic development, and transform lives in our communities.”

The Foodlink Career Fellowship launched in 2018 to train individuals for middle-skills careers in the regional food industry. Fellows are nominated into the program, and progress through a yearlong curriculum that includes both classroom and hands-on training within Foodlink’s state-of-the-art commercial kitchen, where they help prepare after-school and summer meals for Rochester students. Eight members of the inaugural graduating class secured full-time employment in 2019, while seven current members of the Fellowship are more than halfway through the program.

The state’s Workforce Development Initiative (WDI) is investing $175 million in job training projects. Awarded projects support strategic regional efforts that meet businesses’ short-term workforce needs, long-term industry needs, improve regional talent pipelines, enhance the flexibility and adaptability of local workforce entities, and expand workplace learning opportunities.

Aside from Foodlink, the following organizations were recognized by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul during Monday’s announcement: Baxter, Genesee Construction Service, Graham Corporation, Lifetime Assistance, Mary Cariola Children’s Center, McAlpin Industries, Optimax, Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, Prestolite, and Wayne Finger Lakes BOCES.

Foodlink was awarded funding through the WDI’s Pay for Success program, which focuses on training opportunities for underserved and underemployed populations. Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren and Monroe County Executive Adam Bello also attended the announcement and delivered remarks in praise of the program.

“The number one issue I hear from employers across the state is that they can’t find workers with the skills they need for 21st century jobs,” said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. “That is why we are investing $3.1 million in job training programs spearheaded by nearly 70 upstate New York businesses, non-profits, and community organizations that will benefit 3,600 New Yorkers as part of our historic $175 million Workforce Development Initiative. The nearly $1 million in funding for Foodlink will expand the organization’s culinary training program and create more opportunities for individuals in the food industry. The investment is part of our overall efforts to close the skills gap and prepare New Yorkers for jobs today and in the future.”

Foodlink launched the program with guidance from Wegmans Food Markets, and through private funding support from the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund, ESL Charitable Foundation and the William and Sheila Konar Foundation, which also funded the launch of the second class in 2019. The program includes nine months of training at Foodlink, and three months of an externship at a regional employer.

“Before arriving at Foodlink, I wasn’t reaching my true potential,” said Da’Quan Quick, who was a member of the Foodlink Career Fellowship’s inaugural graduating class. “The Fellowship made me believe in myself, and gave me skills I needed to launch a career.”

As a registered apprenticeship, several local employers have partnered with Foodlink as potential landing spots for program graduates. Many of the 2019 graduates moved into full-time roles at Wegmans Food Markets stores and restaurants in the Rochester area. The Kelaron Group, which includes restaurants such as Salena’s Mexican Restaurant and Nox, the Rochester Institute of Technology and the Del Monte Hotel Group, are collaborating with Foodlink, as well.

Foodlink has guided one class through the program in each of the first two years since its launch, however it has committed to hosting two classes of approximately 15 participants each in the year ahead thanks to the state’s investment. Foodlink’s staff will begin to recruit soon for the launch of the third class in July. A fourth class would begin six months later in January of 2021.

New vehicle joins Curbside Market fleet

The newest Curbside Market vehicle is also its largest ever.

The new truck helps modernize the fleet for Foodlink’s mobile farmers market, which visits more than 70 weekly sites (90+ during its peak season) to increase access to healthy foods in underserved neighborhoods. Funding for the vehicle was made possible by Foodlink’s grant award from the USDA through the Local Food Promotion Program in 2018.

The interior is spacious by design. The primary purpose for the vehicle — eventually — is for Foodlink to become the state’s first mobile WIC vendor. The Women, Infants and Children program assists new, low-income mothers with purchasing healthy foods, and includes a range of products beyond fruits and vegetables. Once approved, this vehicle will expand its inventory and offer more products to customers.

The Curbside Market has been on the road since 2013. To see the current schedule, please visit our website, and check us out on Facebook and Instagram.

Weather updates: Multiple Foodlink programs cancel due to snow, ice

Snowy and icy conditions have resulted in multiple cancellations Feb. 7 at Foodlink, which will close its offices at noon today.

A winter storm warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for Monroe and other counties in the Rochester region. As a result, Foodlink made the following announcements:

  • All volunteer shifts for Friday have been canceled.
  • All Curbside Market stops are canceled.
  • Our two Mobile Pantry food distributions — in Lyndonville & Brockport — are canceled.
  • Foodlink’s offices will be closing at noon.

Please be careful out there … stay safe and warm, and call 2-1-1 for more information about food and other resources in your area.