Foodlink endorses BAG’s Declaration — ‘Racism is a Public Health Crisis’

Foodlink is rooted in the belief that food is a basic human right. Our mission is to leverage the power of food to end hunger and build healthier communities. Foodlink endorses the Greater Rochester Black Agenda Group’s May 19th Declaration “RACISM IS A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS.”

We acknowledge our role in public health and our responsibility to “address racism including reshaping our discourse and agenda so that we all actively engage in anti-racist and racial justice work.”

Hunger is a social determinant of health – and it is inextricably and undeniably linked to racism. When people of color experience racial discrimination in housing, education, health care, employment, criminal justice, business and economic mobility, they are far more likely to live in persistent poverty and chronic food insecurity; and they are far more likely to rely on the emergency food system. But food alone will not end hunger.

It is critical that anti-hunger organizations identify themselves as anti-racist organizations, and acknowledge poverty, discrimination and structural racism as the deep roots of hunger, malnourishment, and poor health outcomes in our community, and throughout the country. Only then will we begin to shorten emergency food lines and co-create the conditions that enable all people to feed themselves and their families in dignity.

Foodlink’s 2020 Advocacy Agenda specifically acknowledges the link between racism, poverty and hunger in its guiding principles. We will continue to use this agenda as our North Star to guide our advocacy efforts this year. But we still have much work to do to live out these principles, including building more diverse and inclusive leadership at all levels. We are committed to this work.

Thank you, Greater Rochester Black Agenda Group, for your declaration and your leadership. We encourage organizations and public officials working toward equity to review the declaration and share your endorsement with the BAG.

Report: Food-insecurity rate in Foodlink’s service area projected to rise by 45%

The food-insecurity rate throughout Foodlink’s 10-county service area is projected to rise 45% due to the COVID-19 crisis, according to estimates released by Feeding America on Tuesday.

“The Impact of the Coronavirus on Local Food Insecurity Analysis” details how food insecurity may increase in 2020 due to COVID-19 for the overall population and children by state, county, congressional district and each service area of the 200 food banks that comprise the Feeding America network. The report used baseline data from the latest Map the Meal Gap report, and calculated an increase due to the relationships between food insecurity, poverty, and unemployment.

REPORT SUMMARY: The impact of the Coronavirus on Food Insecurity

When the initial 2020 Map the Meal Gap report was released (using 2018 data), the food insecurity rate for Foodlink’s service area dropped to 10.9% — down from 11.5% the year prior. That equated to 136,610 people. According to this new report, the food-insecurity rate is expected to rise to 15.7% — the equivalent of 197,520 people.

The child food-insecurity rate saw a similar spike, from 18.7% to 27.2%.

The devastating toll that COVID-19 has taken on local economies has caused unemployement to rise to levels not seen since the Great Depression. Feeding America is basing its latest report on a scenario that projects a rise in unemployment by 7.6 percentage points, and a rise in poverty by 4.8 percentage points.

Prior to the pandemic, Ontario County owned the lowest food-insecurity rate in Foodlink’s service area at 8.9%, while Allegany owned the highest (12.8%). Both counties still bookend the data, but their rates have risen to 14.1% and 17.7%, respectively. County-by-county data is available in the chart below.

For the past 5+ years, Foodlink’s food-insecurity rate revealed that 1 in 8 people lived in a household that had limited or uncertain access to enough food. The COVID-19 projections now mean 1 in 6 people are considered food insecure.

Statewide, New York’s food-insecurity rate is projected to jump from 11.1% to 16% — a rise that will affect nearly 1 million people.

Foodlink issues statement in support of HEROES Act

Foodlink issued the following statement this week, in response to the House of Representative’s release of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act):

The latest COVID-19 relief bill introduced May 12 in the House of Representatives provides many of the priorities we had hoped for to curb the sudden rise of food insecurity in our region — and across the country. Although Foodlink takes great pride in its swift response to this crisis, we have been steadfast in our belief that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the most efficient way to feed struggling families, and boost local economies throughout the duration of this crisis.

By boosting SNAP benefits by 15 percent, and raising the minimum allotment from $16 to $30, more people – e.g. seniors, veterans, children, and the recently unemployed — will be able to put healthy food on the table. We were also encouraged that the Act includes a pause on rule changes that would slash SNAP enrollment, an extension of the P-EBT Program, increased WIC funding, and an increase in the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit.

Foodlink applauds the wide-ranging support that this bill offers to vulnerable communities, although we ask that provisions to help low-income households correlate to economic indicators (e.g. unemployment rate) rather than arbitrary time limits – or be made permanent. We also stand by our colleagues at Feeding America who have advocated for increased storage and distribution funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which provides vital support to Foodlink and our entire hunger-relief network.

While we expect a spirited debate over this legislation in Congress, the millions of Americans who are skipping meals on a daily basis due to this crisis deserve a quick response from our elected leaders. On behalf of the thousands of food-insecure people throughout our service area, we urge swift passage of the HEROES Act.

Foodlink urging supporters to become SNAP advocates

Foodlink and anti-hunger organizations across the country continue to plead their case to Congress this week — asking for critical support to federal nutrition assistance progams to help feed families and boost the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Foodlink joined two of its neighboring food banks in writing a guest essay in various publications about its priorities in the next Coronavirus relief package. Thus far, legislation passed in the first three relief bills has given much-needed aid to low-income Americans in the short term — including boosts to SNAP in March and April. Anti-hunger advocates, however, would like to see the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) strengthened in two key ways — and throughout the duration of the economic downturn:

• Increasing SNAP benefits for all recipients by at least 15 percent.

• Increasing the SNAP minimum benefit from $16 to $30.

Foodlink is also advocating for a boost in funding in The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). The program, administered through the USDA, provides American-grown products to food banks nationwide, as well as storage and distribution funding. The products procured through TEFAP are free of charge for member agencies.

The Feeding America network will continue to need additional food and funds from the government to help meet increased need. Feeding America has analyzed the potential impact of the pandemic and predicts up to an additional 17.1 million people could experience food insecurity, many for the first time. This represents a 46 percent increase from the 37 million who were food insecure prior to the outbreak of the pandemic.

In New York alone, 3,189,000 New Yorkers may face hunger this year, many for the first time— an increase of 1,023,000 people because of the pandemic. This would increase the rate of food insecurity by 47 percent raising the rate of food insecurity in New York to 16.3% percent.

For every meal provided by food banks, SNAP provides nine – a testament to just how much more effective and efficient SNAP is to increase food security and stimulate local economies. Every dollar spent in SNAP benefits helps generate between $1.50 and $1.80 in economic activity. Increasing the SNAP maximum benefit by 15 percent would stimulate our state’s economy and ensure New Yorker’s hunger have access to the meals they need.

If you would like to be a SNAP advocate, call your Congressman this week and ask that he supports increases to SNAP to feed our neighbors, and help our economy.

May 5 is #GivingTuesdayNow worldwide

Nonprofits nourish, enrich and improve our lives — and right now they are carrying us through the worst global crisis of our lifetime.

At Foodlink, we dove in headfirst into this crisis and responded immediately – because that’s our moral obligation, and what our mission is all about. What’s more — we had faith that this community would come through for us . And you have … in a BIG way.

You’ve opened your hearts. You’ve donated. You’ve bravely volunteered.

May 5 has been deemed #GivingTuesdayNow, a new global day of giving and unity in response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. It is a day for everyone to remember and acknow,edge how critical nonprofits are to our lives, our communities, and our economy. Today, we at Foodlink are urging you to remember our partner nonprofits leading the way and to offer them your support.

Need a few ideas?

Consider donating to your local food pantry, meal program, or shelter. You can find them by visiting 211lifeline.org. (And while you’re there, consider donating directly to 2-1-1, too!).

If you want to support the community, but don’t know where to begin, visit the United Way of Greater Rochester and donate to their general fund or Community Crisis Fund. You can count on them to faithfully steward your dollars to an area of high need.

And if you can’t give on Tuesday … don’t worry about it! Give tomorrow. Or the next day.

And if you’re not in a position to donate, that’s OK, too. There’s other important ways to help. Follow Monroe County Executive Adam Bello’s recommendation and “Take 5” and care for a neighbor or loved one. Stay home and do your part in keeping yourself and others healthy.

Foodlink has been blessed with so much support in recent weeks. Our service to the community, however, only happens through the support and collaboration with our nonprofit partners. We hope you’ll consider supporting them, as they continue to support all of us.

SNAP-Ed New York launches new website

Save Time, Save Money, Eat Healthy.

Small changes can make a big difference. SNAPEdNY.org is a one-stop destination for providing those in need with the tools to shop for and cook healthy meals while on a limited budget. The new website is designed with the current times in mind, providing low-cost recipes, simple cooking videos, interactive lessons and tons of ways to save time, save money and eat healthy.

COVID-19 is creating financial hardships and challenging times for so many members of our community. It’s important to know that SNAP-Ed New York teams across the state are here to help you. The newly launched website features monthly recipes that are simple, low cost and easy to make. Recipes can be printed or downloaded with a full shopping list to make life a little bit easier.

“During these unprecedented times we are very aware of the struggles that are existing within our communities,” said Maggie McHugh, SNAP-Ed NY Project Manager. “Job insecurity, food insecurity, family and financial struggles are happening with so many of our neighbors. SNAP-Ed in the Northern Finger Lakes region, and around the state, are working hard to connect with those who need it. The new website www.snapedny.org is a small change that may make a big difference during this time.”

While visiting the website you can watch a cooking video on how to make your own salad dressing, get your kids involved in cooking, take part in a virtual lesson and/or find tips on how to eat healthy on a budget. There is something for everyone, including a map that will help you locate an educator and program in your area.

“Eating healthy and exercising regularly are simple methods for decreasing the likelihood of chronic health conditions like Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity,” said Lisa Irving, NYS Coordinator of SNAP Nutrition Education and Outreach, OTDA. “The SNAP-Ed program is committed to ensuring New Yorkers have access to quality resources that promote healthy eating and good nutrition. This website will help educate New Yorkers on the basic steps they can take toward healthier lifestyles, helping to improve the wellness of individuals and families.”

SNAP-Ed NY empowers you to make nutritious food choices within a limited budget and choose physically active lifestyles. SNAP-Ed New York in the Northern Finger Lakes region operates under Cornell Cooperative Extension in Wayne, Monroe, and Cayuga Counties and Foodlink. The diverse team of educators can be found working with schools, families, community agencies and local government to provide you with tools and tips to keep you, your family and your neighbor healthy now and in the future. Visit the new website and tell us what you think!

SNAP-Ed New York is a federally funded evidence-based program that helps people lead healthier lives. SNAP-Ed Nutrition Education is FREE to all individuals who qualify for and/or receive benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP-Ed teaches people using or eligible for SNAP about good nutrition, how to make their food dollars stretch further and the importance of being physically active. SNAP-Ed NY provides nutrition education lessons, materials and sponsors education events and classes in communities across New York State. Visit www.snapedny.org to find a program in your community.

Bank of America pledges support to Foodlink to aid COVID-19 Response

Bank of America has pledged to help Foodlink’s COVID-19 response efforts to support food-insecure families.

Since the public health crisis began to impact the Rochester region, Foodlink has worked with countless community partners to serve food-insecure families throughout its 10-county service area. Our two areas of concentration – beyond our day-to-day food banking operations – include (1) Preparing healthy meals for children impacted by school closures in Rochester; and (2) Assembling emergency food supply boxes for households throughout our service area.

Bank of America’s $40,000 contribution provides critical technology and equipment upgrades, and equates to 7,690 healthy meals for children, or 1,760 emergency food supply boxes for households. Since mid-March, Foodlink has prepared more than 130,000 meals and has assembled more than 35,000 boxes for the community.

Bank of America has partnered with Foodlink in the past by providing local volunteer support and fundraising campaigns through their ongoing partnership with Feeding America. The annual Give-A-Meal campaign – a 2-for-1 matching campaign – has raised tens of thousands of dollars for Foodlink over the past several years.

Happy Volunteer Appreciation Month!

Foodlink and the entire Feeding America network of 200+ food banks always cherishes the month of April because we get to boast about our wonderful volunteers.

It’s Volunteer Appreciation Month! And this week in particular (April 20-24), is Volunteer Appreciation Week!

Volunteers donate their time, energy, and skills toward our mission of ending hunger and building healthier communities. Their support allows us to continue to serve individuals and families in need across our 10-county service area. We are so grateful to the thousands of volunteers who play such a critical role in our operations year after year.

This year, though, things are a little different.

The COVID-19 pandemic that has spread across our area, closed schools and businesses, canceled events and altered the way we communicate with one another has forced Foodlink to make some tough decisions. We suspended several progams, and the volunteer opportunities that supported them. We reduced the capacity of others, and introduced several new safety precautions to mitigate the spread of the virus in our communities. We appreciate everyone’s patience and flexibility during this unprecedented time.

We have been thrilled to see so many new and familiar faces assist with our COVID-19 Response efforts. To date, volunteer support has been critical to helping us:

  • Assemble more than 35,000 Emergency Food Supply Boxes
  • Pack more than 15,000 bags for our BackPack Program.
  • Assist at more than 25 drive-thru food distributions

Collectively, volunteers have donated more than 3,600 hours to support our mission! That’s the equivalent of about 18 full-time staff members!

To ALL of the volunteers who have supported us this past year, and during recent weeks under difficult circumstances, thank you for supporting our mission to helping individuals who need our help. We could not do this important work without you.

SNAP recipients getting additional funds this month

Foodlink and Monroe County’s Department of Human Services are spreading the word about extra money appearing on SNAP EBT cards during the month of April.

This “Emergency Assistance” SNAP was approved through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act back in March (the second of three major stimulus bills passed by Congress). For people who received SNAP in March and/or April, they will receive extra benefits between April 13-24.

How much?

Congress approved households getting the maximum allotment for BOTH months. For example, if an individual (household size = 1) received a normal monthly allotment of $100, they would be eligible to receive an additional $94 for EACH month (total = $188).

See the charts above and below, and visit the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance website for a helpful FAQ about EA SNAP.

DOWNLOAD: Printable flyer in English & Spanish

Community mobilizes to move Foodlink volunteer operations to new facility

Foodlink on Friday relocated volunteer operations from the Rochester Riverside Convention Center to 2600 Manitou Road. Monroe County and United Way of Greater Rochester rallied local organizations to support the relocation, including Wegmans and the Teamsters Local 118, Greater Rochester Enterprise and Acquest Realty.

“Opening up the Convention Center will allow our community to have the space and flexibility necessary should we need to move quickly to expand capacity for our healthcare providers,” said County Executive Bello. “We are so grateful to Wegmans, the Teamsters Local 118 and others for working quickly to help Foodlink move to a safe, spacious place to continue its critical operations.”

“Having access to a spacious, off-site facility where volunteers can safely pack food to meet the increased need in our communities has been critical to our COVID-19 Response efforts,” said Julia Tedesco, President & CEO of Foodlink. “This could not have happened without the support from so many. Collaborating with United Way, Monroe County, Wegmans, the Teamsters Local 118, Greater Rochester Enterprise, Acquest Realty and others helps ensure we can put food on the table for thousands of families in the Rochester region during this difficult time.”

More than 500 volunteers have assisted Foodlink at the Convention Center since mid-March. During the nearly four weeks in the space, Foodlink volunteers packed more than 10,000 bags of food for its BackPack Program, and 30,000 emergency food supply boxes that were distributed through Foodlink’s existing network of more than 100 hunger-relief partners, and at 24 drive-thru food distributions throughout our region.

“This crisis has brought to the forefront the power of what good can happen when we work together, unified in new and different ways,” says Jaime Saunders, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Rochester. “Within 48 hours so many partners came together to support Foodlink from our United Way team to Monroe County staff to drivers at Wegmans and the Teamsters – all to ensure community needs continued to be met without disruption.”

“We are so thankful for all our employees who continue to rise to the occasion to serve, inspire, and care for our communities during this difficult time,” said Linda Lovejoy, Wegmans community relations manager. “We are proud to come together with others in our community to help with the incredible efforts of these organizations.”

“This community is strong, resilient, and determined, and we’re much stronger when we work together,” said Paul Markwitz, President of Teamsters Local 118. “The Teamsters are proud to utilize our resources and skills to help our community overcome the impacts of this pandemic.”

Foodlink will open up new volunteer shifts next week through the United Way volunteer portal to help pack bags for its BackPack Program, and assemble the next round of 10,000 emergency food supply boxes for food-insecure households throughout our region.