ROCHESTER – Foodlink’s Curbside Market, a mobile market that provides fresh, affordable, and convenient access to healthy foods, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this week.
The Rochester-based food bank held a celebration at its headquarters Friday afternoon on Mt. Read Boulevard, bringing together Foodlink staff, volunteers, community partners, customers, and elected officials to mark the milestone. The innovative market launched in the summer of 2013 and sold approximately $25,000 in produce during its first season. It quickly became a year-round endeavor, and a decade later, the Curbside Market has now totaled more than $2.8 million in sales.
“When I think about what Foodlink means to this community, I often think about the risks we’ve taken and the progress we’ve made with the Curbside Market,” said Julia Tedesco, President & CEO of Foodlink. “While food banking remains the core of our operations, the Curbside Market has found a foothold in this community, overcome obstacles, and has really engaged its customers in ways that makes everyone at our organization enormously proud.”
From its inaugural voyage on July 8, 2013, the market has expanded to a fleet of 6 vehicles, an annual operating budget of more than $2 million, and 60+ weekly stops on its schedule. The goal is – and has always been – to provide new access points for residents living in neighborhoods with low or limited access to healthy food. The market has always accepted Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and recently became the first mobile market in the nation to accept Women, Infants & Children (WIC) benefits.
The market has also piloted home-delivery models and partnerships, including one recent initiative that served 150+ expectant mothers. It works with local businesses and their wellness programs to offer a CSA-style opportunity for employees. It has also engaged loyal shoppers – called Curbside Market Ambassadors – to offer new ideas and shape the direction of the market for future years.
“I started shopping at the Curbside Market back in 2013 because I found it convenient and it did not have high prices,” said Andre Lockett, a Curbside Market Ambassador at Kennedy Towers on Plymouth Avenue, near the Ford Street Bridge. “I became an ambassador in 2018 because I like making the community aware of the Curbside Market by sharing my knowledge and experiences of eating healthy.”
Aside from more than $2.8 million in total sales, the market has recorded more than 265,000 customer transactions and sold more than 2 million pounds of produce in the Rochester area since its launch a decade ago. Approximately half of its sales have been through SNAP or other federal benefits or incentive programs, helping shoppers stretch their food budgets.
“The 10-year anniversary of the Curbside Market program is a testament to Foodlink’s enduring commitment to ending hunger, building healthy communities and recognizing food as a human right,” said Mayor Malik D. Evans. “I want to congratulate Foodlink on reaching this important milestone and thank them for their work to reduce food insecurity in our community. By helping us make sure all of the people of Rochester have access to healthy, high-quality food, they are advancing our vision to create a safe, equitable and prosperous Rochester by inspiring hope and delivering opportunity for everyone.”
At Friday’s event, local, county and state leaders lauded the progress made and the impact of the Curbside Market and its dedicated staff, volunteers, and community partners. The celebration included food prepared by the Foodlink Community Kitchen, drawing inspiration from foods commonly purchased at the market. The Curbside Market is in the midst of its summer schedule, which includes 65 weekly stops (Monday through Saturday) throughout the Rochester region.
Over the next decade, the market will continue to innovate to meet the community’s needs. Future plans include: (1) A new permanent home and loading dock at the renovated Foodlink facility; (2) Technology improvements such as online ordering and a new payment processing system; (3) Expanded health education offerings; (4) New community-led outreach strategies; and (5) Increased partnerships with healthcare systems and providers.
“Innovation is in Foodlink’s DNA – their mission to end hunger by ensuring affordable, nutritious foods are easily accessible makes our community healthier and improves our residents’ quality of life,” said County Executive Adam J. Bello. “Monroe County is proud to partner with Foodlink to support our community through numerous programs and services, including host Foodlink’s Curbside Market at our own Department of Human Services. Today, we celebrate the decade of positive impacts the Curbside Market has made by bringing fresh food into neighborhoods and partnering with service providers to host mobile markets where people need them most.”
For more information about the Curbside Market and how to donate, volunteer or partner, visit FoodlinkNY.org/CurbsideMarket.