Excellus BlueCross Blue Shield is providing $600,000 in financial support to food banks and food pantries across upstate New York as part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Rochester region, that includes $160,000 to support Foodlink, Inc. in its efforts to provide food for people in need.
“The ability to earn a paycheck and feed a family are at risk for many people because of the coronavirus,” said Excellus BCBS President and CEO-elect James Reed. “This is leading to a growing number of people in our community experiencing food insecurity. Good health begins with good food. We saw an opportunity to help by providing needed support to food banks and food pantries that are under pressure because of an increased need in our communities.”
Food is the most basic of all needs. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, nearly 14 percent of New York households struggled with hunger, and at least 1 million New York children lived in households that did not have regular and consistent access to food, according to the New York State Anti-Hunger Task Force. Over the last few months, as New York State’s unemployment rate increased, the ability for many families to regularly have food on the table was compromised. Local food banks and pantries are straining to meet the new demand.
The $600,000 donation from Excellus BCBS will support food banks and food pantries across the nonprofit health insurer’s 39 county upstate New York service area.
“Foodlink is a proud partner of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield in our effort to help build healthier communities across Rochester and the Finger Lakes region,” said Julia Tedesco, President & CEO of Foodlink. “Excellus BCBS understands the vital importance of food and nutrition in helping our region recover from this pandemic, and we’re grateful for their significant investment in our ongoing response to this public health crisis.”
This donation to food banks is part of a larger commitment by Excellus BCBS to spend more than $162 million to help its members, health care providers and communities respond to the pandemic.
“We are a nonprofit health insurer with 3,500 employees who call upstate New York home,” said Reed. “Improving the health and quality of life of our communities is what we’re all about.”
After an article on Monday publicizing a partnership between Foodlink and the Regional Transit Service (RTS) to deliver Summer Meals to children across Rochester, Gov. Cuomo’s office took notice.
In a Monday night e-newsletter, Cuomo included a shoutout to the partnership with a link to the article, calling it a “Deep Breath Moment.”
The partnership, launched this year in the wake of the Coronavirus’s impact on the Summer Meals program, which is accustomed to delivering meals to summer camps and other sites with large gatherings of children. Because of social-distancing guidelines and many programs being canceled or limiting their capacity, the Summer Meals Partnership of Rochester had to innovate to think of new ways to serve meals across Rochester.
The RTS is providing the vehicles and the drivers, while Foodlink prepares the meals and sends teens involved in Rochester’s Summer Youth program to help the drivers seek out families and draw attention to the program. The buses visit 5 neighborhoods that don’t have a nearby Summer Meals location, such as a school or a rec center. They circle neighborhoods between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., handing out free, healthy meals.
Rochester-area residents who have experienced barriers to employment
but have a passion for cooking are encouraged to apply now to Foodlink’s
one-of-a-kind culinary training program.
The Foodlink Career Fellowship is a unique job-training and anti-poverty program – and the first New York State-approved cook apprenticeship. Foodlink is accepting applications all summer for the Class of 2021, which begins its yearlong journey in September.
The curriculum includes nine months of a paid apprenticeship, combining classroom and on-the-job learning with an externship at a local employer. Participants learn essential cooking techniques, earn industry credentials as well as the hard skills needed in large-scale food production. Foodlink staff will facilitate job offers for all graduates, with a focus on livable wage jobs and opportunities for professional development.
All applicants must be nominated by a community-based organizations or mentor. Visit FoodlinkNY.org to download the application and learn more about the program. For more information, please contact Foodlink’s Career Empowerment Initiatives team at firstname.lastname@example.org.