Foodlink Community Café opens in downtown Central Library - Foodlink Inc

Foodlink Community Café opens in downtown Central Library

The Foodlink Community Café is open for business – and everyone is welcome.

The new pay-what-you-can-style café is located inside the Central Library’s Bausch & Lomb building downtown (115 South Ave.). Guests can pay the suggested price on the menu, or pay what they are able. Some guests may choose to pay it forward to help cover the cost for those who can’t, and to support Foodlink’s mission.

“We launched this café as an extension of our most transformative career empowerment initiative, the Foodlink Career Fellowship,” said Julia Tedesco, President & CEO of Foodlink. “It will provide valuable training opportunities for our Fellows, fresh, nutritious lunch options downtown, and a way for the whole community to learn more about Foodlink and our Community Kitchen.”


The café offers a new retail experience for apprentices enrolled in the Foodlink Career Fellowship – a one-of-a-kind culinary training program. The seven members of the current Fellowship class are primarily responsible for preparing the food and greeting and serving customers.

The space once occupied by Starry Nites, Tim Horton’s and Simply Crepes will offer a lunch menu created by Foodlink Executive Chef Casey Holenbeck that features scratch-made sandwiches, soups, salads and sides. Other local menu items include: Fuego coffee, Amazing Grains bread, New York Chips, FIZ soda and Red Jacket Orchards juice.

“The staff, patrons, and neighbors of the Central Library are thrilled to have the cafe space open again and so excited to welcome Foodlink and their staff to the building,” said Library Director Patty Uttaro. “We are especially thankful for Foodlink’s innovative approach to this project, which not only provides affordable nourishment to all but also provides valuable customer-facing experience for the staff behind the counter. We look forward to seeing the ‘pay what you can/pay it forward’ model succeed.”

Foodlink’s mission is to leverage the power of food to end hunger and build healthier communities. Its food-banking operations serve hundreds of thousands of residents each year throughout a 10-county service area. During the past year, food insecurity has risen 25% in the Rochester region due to the economic impact of COVID-19.

The Foodlink Career Fellowship is an official New York State cook apprenticeship. The first two graduating classes helped 13 Fellows launch their careers in the regional food industry, and a third class is finishing up their training this spring. Foodlink is currently recruiting for its fourth class scheduled to begin in July. Interested applicants must be nominated by a community-based organization, employer or mentor. Visit for more details about the application process.

The Daisy Marquis Jones Foundation and Jobs for the Future provided funding to support curriculum development for the Foodlink Career Fellowship, while both Wegmans Food Markets and Singer Equipment Company donated equipment.

The café is open Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, all meals are take-out only. The indoor seating area adjacent to the café is currently closed.

Customers can view the menu and the story behind the café at, or follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@FoodlinkCommunityCafe).

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