About this program
During the summer of 2012, Foodlink implemented a Value-added Processing (VAP) program to extend the shelf life of local agricultural products and make them more appealing for consumers — especially children.
This initiative — a true social enterprise — focused on slicing local apples and working with local distributors to provide healthy snacks to local schools. We also used this opportunity to provide workforce development training to teach individuals valuable skills in the preparing, processing, packaging, and marketing of raw local products. The final products — a trained workforce and healthy, shelf-stable products — will benefit both producers and consumers in our regional food system.
Why sliced apples?
A study published by Cornell Cooperative Extension and Cornell University’s Center for Behavioral Economics in child Nutrition programs (BEN Center) in 2011 served as the catalyst for Foodlink’s apple-slicing operations. It found that consumption rates among children (in Wayne County middle schools) rose more than 70% when kids were given sliced apples as opposed to whole apples. Local farms lack the infrastructure and equipment to slice their own apples, so Foodlink founder Tom Ferraro decided to take a chance, and the rest is history.
Today, in Foodlink’s state-of-the-art commercial kitchen, local apples are washed, sliced, bagged, and distributed in individual serving sizes to schools in our region. As an official New York Grown & Certified facility, Foodlink purchases apples from Fowler Farms in Wolcott, NY, and from Sun Orchard Fruit Company in Burt, NY, which partners with 30 farms across western and central New York. As demand for Foodlink’s sliced apples has risen since we moved into our new kitchen in 2017, so has our production capabilities.
In October of 2018, Foodlink launched a second shift to ensure we can adequately meet demand for our product. In September of 2019, our operations became SQF (Safe Quality Food) certified, which allowed us to expand into new markets with new distributors.
Foodlink also secured a contract in 2018 with the National Food Group (NFG), a company that provides apple products to schools through their USDA entitlements. We slice apples under their private label of Zee Zee’s. School districts across NYS now can source our apples through their USDA entitlements/commodity program and our branded apples through their standard purchasing program. In the first year of this partnership with NFG, Foodlink is projected to process over 2,750 private-label cases.
For more information about our apple-slicing operations, call (585) 254-4423.
Foodlink doesn’t intend to stop at apples. The demand is high to process other local foods and distribute ready-to-eat, appealing products. Foodlink has already purchased additional slicing equipment to help expand its capabilities, however, we have yet to announce our next venture.
Cucumber coins? Carrot sticks? Butternut squash cubes? To be continued …