EDITOR’S NOTE: The June 3 update below will be the last in this space, which has been dedicated to updating the community about our efforts throughout our COVID-19 Response.
We will continue to update our blog with relevant information related to our response, and edit other sections of our website, as needed, throughout the summer.
Thank you for following this page, and supporting our efforts. Foodlink’s commitment to the Rochester region remains stronger than ever, as we continue to adapt to this crisis, and leverage the power of food to end hunger and build healthier communities.
Foodlink is taking several precautionary measures to both mitigate the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), and to ensure we are equipped to continue to serve and nourish our communities.
Foodlink is the hub of the emergency food system in the Finger Lakes and Genesee Valley regions of New York. Our operations will continue to serve those who might be affected by the risk-reduction measures implemented throughout our 10-county-service area. We have been in communication with Feeding America — the national network of 200+ food banks — local government officials, and public health experts to formulate various plans to feed our neighbors.
Below is a summary of Foodlink’s COVID-19 response efforts, which will be updated as the situation evolves. Those seeking food assistance are encouraged to call 2-1-1 or text 898-211 to learn about resources throughout our 10-county region.
MAKE A DONATION: Foodlink’s COVID-19 Response Fund
A quarter of a million.
That’s how many meals our staff has prepared for Rochester children since the COVID-19 crisis hit locally. It began on Sunday, March 15, when members of our kitchen staff came in over the weekend to get ahead of the upcoming workload. Schools were closed, and children needed meals.
In the months since, our full-time kitchen staff, led by Executive Chef Casey Holenbeck, has received backup from around the building and around town. Longtime partners such as Wegmans sent help from some of their stores and restaurants, and staff from other Foodlink departments — finance, nutrition education, development and more — donned chef jackets, hairnets and gloves to lend a hand. The Curbside Market also lent critical support to the kitchen fleet, while members of the Foodlink Career Fellowship’s inaugural class, returned to work side-by-side with the current class.
Our work will continue into the summer, when families often need our help the most. We’ll continue to take pride in our healthy, diverse menu — and we’ll continue to collaborate with community partners to nourish our youngest residents.
Thank you to everyone that has supported our COVID-19 Response efforts … your help has made this all possible.
There are still several volunteer shifts open this week, both at Foodlink’s distribution center, and its off-site facility on Manitou Road. As of late Sunday evening, more than 100 shifts remain open.
Foodlink, in partnership with the United Way, opened up another series of shifts June 1-6 on Volunteer United portal last week. If you are healthy and willing, please consider signing up for a shift, and helping Foodlink feed our neighbors.
UNITED WAY VOLUNTEER PORTAL: Sign up today!
Foodlink has ensorsed the Black Agenda Group’s declaration of “RACISM IS A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS.”
An excerpt from Foodlink’s statement:
“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 on Friday announced its next round of food distributions, scheduled to begin June 1. Visit our Emergency Food Supply Box page for a full list of 20+ sites throughout our 10-county region. Check out the flyer below for Monroe County sites, all of which require pre-registration through 2-1-1.
One key difference for this round (Phase V) is the contents of the boxes. Foodlink will not be distributing its typical boxes of non-perishable goods. Rather, we will be handing out 40+ pounds of perishable products in boxes courtesy of the Nourish NY initiative, and the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which includes pre-packed boxes of produce, pre-cooked meat and dairy products.
Check out this nice story in the Democrat & Chronicle about the “Divine 9” and their local response to the COVID-19 crisis.
They’ve chosen to support Foodlink through a livestream event Friday night!
Thank you to DiBella’s Subs for including Foodlink in your Pay it Forward Program!
We are proud to support the important work of @FoodlinkNY by providing over 300,000 meals with our gift of $100,000! #PayItForward #DiBellasHeroes— DiBella's Subs (@DiBellasSubs) May 22, 2020
If you are interested in PAYING IT FORWARD with DiBella's to support frontline heroes, visit https://t.co/ld8yipCgYj to lean more! https://t.co/NQn3VntMbx
Our Week 10 numbers …
Foodlink’s Mitch Gruber was interviewed for a piece that ran yesterday on ProPublica, a non-profit news organization focused on investigative reporting. The piece focused on the USDA’s rollout of its Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), and how the northeast region (which includes New York), hasn’t seen too much funding, to date.
Gruber also spoke about the process, and how ultimately food could have gotten to local households quicker: “Everyone’s genuinely trying to best connect surplus at farms with increased need at food banks, and I’m glad the USDA is trying to fill that void,” Gruber said. “The smartest way to have done it would be to fund the food banks and work backwards to food distributors and vendors to serve them, rather than to have the USDA work with distributors and vendors.”
Phase IV of our emergency food box distributions came to a close yesterday. Thank you to all of the host sites (the returning ones, and the new partners!) who collaborated with us for this latest round!
Foodlink is currently finalizing its Phase V schedule, which will be released some time next week (May 26-29). Foodlink’s offices will be closed Monday, for the Memorial Day weekend holiday.
Phase V’s distribution schedule is set to start June 1. Visit our website later next week for details.
It’s been a week of gratitude, and we’re so grateful for the community’s support! Below, you’ll see a sign that an anonymous donor bought for our front lawn, via Card My Yard.
We’ve also made a video documenting the Better World Day letter-writing project from the Genesee Community Charter School.
Our staff is loving all the love … thank you!
According to data released this morning by Feeding America, Foodlink’s 10-county service area could see a 45% rise in food insecurity due to the COVID-19 crisis.
That equates to an additional 60,000 people who now live in households without enough food.
As detailed in the chart below, some counties will see a slightly more dramatic spike than others — but all will experience a sudden rise in food-insecurity in large part due to the sharp increase in unemployment.
MONROE DISTRIBUTIONS FULL
Registrations are full for all Monroe County food distributions this week, according to 2-1-1 LIFELINE.
Residents in need of food assistance can still call or text (898-211) to be directed at other local food resources (e.g. food pantries & meal programs) in the area.
Next week, Foodlink will announced its next phase of food box distributions.
VIEW FROM ABOVE
Our friends at Oh!Davidson Creative shared some aerial footage from Saturday’s distribution. Check it out:
Saturday’s distribution at Foodlink — the third one held in our parking lot since the pandemic began — featured a fantastic display of collaboration.
Representatives from the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets were on hand to see the new Nourish NY program in action. Deputy Commissioner Dave Valesky joined farmer Chad Kirby (Kirby Farms of Brockport) to help hand out food to Rochester-area residents.
The distribution featured Kirby’s apples, as well as cabbages from Brightly Farms and milk from Upstate Farms. The Nourish NY initiative provided $25 million to state food banks to purchase farm products for distributions serving food-insecure households. Foodlink has tapped into the program to purchase nearly 200,000 pounds of products in the first week since it was announced.
In total, vehicles received more than 70 pounds of food at Saturday’s distribution.
From left, Chad Kirby of Kirby Farms, Deputy Commissioner Dave Valesky of NYS Ag & Markets, Foodlink COO Terra Keller, Foodlink CEO Julia Tedesco, Hector Gonzalez of NYS Ag & Markets and Foodlink CPO Mitch Gruber.
Need a feel-good image at the end of the week? How about three?
Check out the images below of our kitchen team in action this afternoon in our distribution center. After a busy week of preparing 20,000+ meals for Rochester children, they wrapped up a little early on Friday. Instead of heading home to relax, they spent a few hours in our volunteer sorting stations, helping to categorize incoming donations for our food bank.
What dedication! Thank you for making us proud!
While it’s clear the Senate and House have to plenty to negotiate after House Democrats unveiled the HEROES Act earlier this week (and plan to vote on it Friday), Foodlink has issued a statement in support of Congress’s latest relief package.
The Act, introduced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday, does include several anti-hunger measures, including increasing SNAP benefits by 15%, and increasing the minimum allotment from $16 to $30.
We recently interviewed a few of our Curbside Market Ambassadors about the importance of SNAP. Above, Renee Collins talked about how raising the minimum allotment would impact her.
Want to learn another way you can #DoYourPart to help the spread of COVID-19?
We have opened up a few more slots in our volunteer portal for our off-site packing facility on Manitou Road. Sign up through the United Way portal today!
Week 8 recap …
There’s a fun fundraiser we wanted to spotlight here because it both supports OUR mission, and local businesses, as well!
Foodlink has close ties to the local food & drink industry, both due to our annual Festival of Food fundraiser, and through our culinary training program, which prepares individuals for living-wage careers in the regional food industry.
Some of our dear local supporters came up with the Foodlink FOODFriendzy Challenge. People are encouraged to make a donation to Foodlink, challenge their friends to do the same, and as an added ‘Thank you,’ purchase their friend a gift card from a local food & drink establishment. Everyone wins!
CAMPAIGN PAGE: Foodlink FOODFriendzy Challenge
Foodlink joined forces with its colleagues at the Food Bank of the Southern Tier and FeedMore WNY to submit a guest essay in various publications this week, to speak out about the need for increases in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Among the first papers to public the essay was the Hornell Evening Tribune. In it, the presidents of the three neighboring food banks advocate for a 15% increase in SNAP benefits during this economic downturn, and an increase of the minimum benefit from $16 to $30.
SNAP has long proven itself to be one of most effective and efficient anti-poverty programs in the nation. We’re hopeful that our elected officials will realize the important role SNAP can play in both putting food on the table, and stimulating the economy in the wake of this crisis.
Foodlink announced its next round (Phase IV) of emergency food supply box distributions Thursday morning.
This round includes 24 sites (including 6 in Monroe County) between May 11-21. Once again, pre-registeration is required through 2-1-1 for all Monroe County sites. Distributions held in other counties are either first-come, first-served, or through a different registration process.
TRANSLATION: Spanish version of Monroe County flyer
Thank you, No Kid Hungry, for awarding Foodlink a $25,000 grant to support our BackPack Program and our Community Kitchen meals! Both programs have been extremely busy in recent weeks due to our COVID-19 Response efforts.
We appreciate your support, and all the work you do to help end hunger and build healthier communities across the nation!
It’s #GivingTuesdayNOW day!
This global day of philanthropy comes at a time when nonprofits around the world are mobilizing to serve communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Foodlink is encouarging folks who have the means to find a local food pantry, shelter or meal program and make a donation. Two other organizations we’re working closely with to connect people with the resources they need are the United Way and 2-1-1 LIFELINE. Please consider a donation to help support the nonprofits who are supporting our communities!
More details have been announced by New York State for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Nourish New York initiative, which will benefit food banks and the food-insecure households they serve — as well as farmers who have been struggling to sell their crops and products.
Foodlink will receive more than $1.6 million of the $25 million allocated to food banks and other organizations across the state. The majority of the funding will be used to purchase dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.
“Feeding New York State applauds Governor Cuomo’s leadership in creating the Nourish New York Program,” said Dan Egan, Executive Director of Feeding New York State — a coalition of state food banks. “With these funds, our 10 food banks will be able to significantly expand our partnerships with New York farmers and dairy producers, providing top quality food to our neighbors statewide. Communities suffering from the economic effects of this pandemic will get healthy food, and our productive farmers will have a market, through the Nourish New York program. Thanks to Governor Cuomo, we are FEEDING NEW YORK STATE.”
STORIES FROM THE FRONT LINES
We were so pleased to get a bunch of great responses from our member agencies, when we asked them to send in videos about their response efforts. Check it out!
The weekly numbers are in …
How about a round of applause for Andre, Macie, Flo, Tony, Camille, Tom — and all of the volunteers who took part in the Mt. Olivet food distribution on Thursday afternoon!
The rain never let up, but our soaking-wet crew helped feed hundreds!
Shoutout to Dunkin’ for giving our volunteers a little parting gift on the final shift of Volunteer Appreciation Month! Each volunteer left Foodlink (or Manitou Road) with a pound of ground coffee and a gift card.
During the month of April, volunteers donated more than 2,500 hours of their time to support our mission. Amazing!
Who wants to volunteer???
We’ve opened up several days of volunteer shifts (now through May 22) over at our off-site facility on Manitou Road. Volunteers can sign up for 3-hour shifts, and either help us pack emergency food supply boxes, or bags of food for our BackPack Program.
If interested, visit the United Way’s portal to register for a shift!
Some nice photos coming in of food distributions so far this week … thank you to everyone involved! In order, St. Ambrose Church (4/28), Clyde Savannah Schools (4/28), Henrietta Recreation Center (4/29) …
Foodlink will be holding distributions through Saturday, then aims to start the next phase on May 11. Details will be released next week about future sites.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday made two key announcements to benefit food banks in New York State.
He announced $25 million in funding to support COVID-19 Response efforts, and the Nourish NY initiative, which will purchase food and products from NY farms, many of which are struggling due to depleted markets. Food, rather than go to waste, will be directed to area food banks.
Our six-week snapshot …
Thank you to health and wellness startup Herogard for donating thousands of filtered masks to Foodlink! Herogard tells us that for every purchase made on Herogard.com, masks will be donated to essential workers and marginalized communities. We’re one of the first beneficiaries!
This first donation will go to our heroic kitchen team, and to our food distributions in rural communities throughout our region. Thank you!
VAN BORTEL SUPPORT
Van Bortel Subaru of Rochester announced it is proudly supporting Feeding America by donating 300,000 meals to Foodlink here in our community to help feed people in need during the COVID-19 crisis. This commitment to the Rochester community is part of the company’s 50 million-meal pledge to food banks nationwide!
MORE VOLUNTEER SHIFTS OPEN
We’ve added more volunteer shifts to the United Way portal through next week. If you’ve got time to spare and you’re healthy and willing, help us pack emergency food boxes and bags for our BackPack Program at our off-site volunteer facility!
Thank you to Bank of America for donating $40,000 to support our COVID-19 Response!
READ MORE: Bank of America pledges support to Foodlink
Happy Volunteer Appreciation Month … and Week!
Here’s a stat for people to think about … Since Foodlink’s COVID-19 Response began in mid-March, volunteers have donated more than 3,600 hours to support our mission. That’s the equivalent of about 18 full-time staff members!
Read more about why volunteers are so critical to our work by visiting our blog.
Foodlink on Monday announced its “Phase III” of emergency food supply box distributions. The Monroe County sites (listed above), were announced in the morning, and an additional 20+ sites throughout Foodlink’s 10-county service area will be finalized and publicized in the afternoon.
For all Monroe County sites, households MUST pre-register by calling 2-1-1 (or texting 898-211).
TRANSLATION: Spanish version
LEARN MORE: Foodlink’s emergency food supply boxes
Just over a month in …
Thank you to Monroe County for supplying masks for households who attend our food distributions! We’re also partnering with the county to spread the word about the importance of taking the 2020 Census, and their “Six Feet Saves” campaign. Thank you for your partnership as we feed AND educate our residents!
Thank you to our friends at RG&E, an Avangrid company, for donating $75,000 to support our ongoing COVID-19 Response efforts!
RG&E CEO Carl Taylor made the announcement this morning on Good Day Rochester. The funds will continue to help Foodlink provide healthy meals for school-age kids, and emergency food boxes for food-insecure households throughout our region.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo today issued an executive order, requiring that people wear face coverings when in a public place and unable to maintain social distance — to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Since the Centers for Disease Control adopted a new stance on the effectiveness of masks on April 4, Foodlink has followed local health officials’ recommendations for wearing masks. As such, we have updated our volunteer policies with regard to PPE:
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Gloves are NOT recommended for this volunteer activity, according to Monroe County Health Department officials, as improper use increases the risk of spreading the coronavirus. Masks, however, are now required due to the governor’s recent executive order. Foodlink has a limited supply of masks to provide to volunteers April 16-18, but beginning April 20, volunteers are expected to bring their own. Please keep in mind that face coverings are NOT a substitute for social distancing and other risk-reduction measures.
For Foodlink staff, especially those who interact daily with the public (e.g. drivers, volunteer coordinators), we sought to provide masks, and the United Way of Greater Rochester and Goodwill came through in a big way!
Today, we received a box of 100+ cloth homemade masks that we will distribute to our staff this week. Thank you to everyone in the community who took part in this initiative!
Check out the information below to learn more about a boost in SNAP benefits for New Yorkers this month.
The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance also has provided a useful FAQ with additional information.
More than 700,000 New Yorkers will receive a boost in SNAP benefits to help them put food on the table during the COVID-19 crisis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.
Those enrolled in SNAP who are not currently receiving the maximum benefit will receive an additional payment to bring them up to this amount for March and April. Households eligible for the supplement that live in counties outside of New York City will begin receiving the supplemental emergency benefit starting on April 13, and all eligible households will have received it by April 24.
Foodlink and many anti-hunger advocates have urged Congress to increase SNAP benefits for households on a more long-term basis, as part of a fourth stimulus bill.
Four weeks down …
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.
“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.
Foodlink will open up new volunteer shifts at the new facility next week.
Foodlink will gather with officials from Monroe County and Teamsters Local 118 at noon Friday to discuss its move to a new off-site facility for its volunteer operations.
The facility — located at 2600 Manitou Road — will host Foodlink’s future volunteer shifts — set to begin next week. Similar to the convention center, the space is large and allows for social distancing as volunteers prepare to pack another 10,000 emergency food supply boxes, and bags of food for the BackPack Programs. Volunteers have already packed 30,000 boxes in the past three weeks.
Stay tuned for more news tomorrow, and updates about future volunteer opportunities.
Foodlink today announced its Phase II distribution schedule for the next 10,000 Emergency Food Supply Boxes (EFSBs). All Monroe County sites, listed below, require pre-registration through 2-1-1 (text 898-211).
Visit our EFBS page to find a complete list of 24 sites.
Translation: Spanish version
VOLUNTEER HELP NEEDED WEDNESDAY
We’ve added another two volunteer shifts through the United Way’s portal for Wednesday (morning and afternoon)! We need to finish packing our emergency food supply boxes for Phase III.
Quick shoutout to the wonderful team at Julia K. Caters for working with our kitchen staff to produce additional healthy meals for school-age kids at our Rochester R Center and school sites!
We were happy to collaborate with and support a great local business during these challenging times! Thank you for your help, and partnership!
Thank you to everyone who has made this possible …
Monroe County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza has issued updated guidelines for masks, as a result of new recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control:
In light of new scientific evidence, the CDC is now recommending wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.— Dr. Mike Mendoza (@DrMikeMendoza) April 4, 2020
Face coverings are NOT a substitute for social distancing. https://t.co/POhtKSTYPX
Thank you to our friends at the Rochester Americans — and everyone at Pegula Sports + Entertainment, for sending us food donations, which will support some of our high-need member agencies during this difficult time.
We look forward to getting this food out the door soon to our network, and a continued partnership with more deliveries in the month ahead!
FAQ FROM THE MCHD
There are many questions about COVID-19. Below are some of the most common listed by the Monroe County Health Department, along with answers that have been vetted by public health officials.
What does social distancing mean?
Social distancing is deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Staying at least six feet away from other people lessens your chances of catching COVID-19.
Can I visit my relatives or friends?
Do not visit loved ones in person. Use the phone or other electronic devices. Deliver food or other essential items to the doorstep.
How can I keep safe when I need to go out for essential items like food?
• Make as few trips as possible.
• Shop and return home as quickly as possible.
• Make a list in advance.
• Consider using delivery services or the self-checkout lane.
• Wipe down the shopping cart, touch screens and touch pads before and after use.
What if we are outside?
• Avoid close contact with people, even when outside.
• Keep at least 6 feet apart to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
• Avoid games and activities that require close contact.
• Avoid frequently touched surfaces and objects. This includes playground equipment like slides and swings.
• Do not share equipment such as bicycles, helmets, balls or frisbees.
• Do not gather in groups.
• When you return indoors, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcoholbased hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
BLOG POST: ‘Do your part’ to help flatten the curve
Time for Phase III!
Foodlink has opened up another four days worth of shifts at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center, and begin packing the next round of 10,000 boxes on Friday.
If you are healthy and want to help out with the next 10,000 Emergency Food Supply Boxes, sign up at: bit.ly/UWFoodlinkshifts
Foodlink has been amazed at the community support we’ve received in recent weeks, and we’re once again floored by another generous donation.
Wegmans, our strongest community partner for more than four decades, recently announced it is donating $4 million to its partner food banks.
From their website:
“At times like these, everyone is called on to come together and support one another. One of our highest giving priorities is providing food for people at risk of hunger. The best way to do this is by supporting local food banks that can provide food directly to people in need. Given the unknown duration and overall impact of this crisis, Wegmans is donating $4 million spread across all our partner food banks. We will continue to support our partners and adapt as needed.”
CURBSIDE MARKET & NUTRITION ED UPDATE
Foodlink is continuing to reassess COVID-19’s impact on our region and programs, and have made the decision to further suspend all of our Curbside Market and Nutrition Education activities through May 1.
We will continue to discuss when would be a safe and appropriate time to resume both of these programs. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
UPDATED MEAL SITES
Foodlink has updated its meal site map (above) to reflect a few recent changes:
- School 7 has been added as distribution site (8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.)
- Action for a Better Community sites are suspending their meal service
We were back at the Convention Center today after a 2.5-day hiatus as we awaited more product to be delivered. Today’s crews were on point!
Morning: 1,290 boxes
Afternoon: 1,470 boxes
TOTAL: 2,760 boxes!
Well done, everyone!
Thank you to everyone who has played an integral role in feeding the community these past couple weeks!
Foodlink is canceling its Convention Center volunteer shifts for Saturday, March 28, and trying to divert people to sign up for a Distribution Center shift instead. With food donations starting to mount — the priority for Friday and Saturday pivoted to sorting, boxing and weighing items to go out to our network of hunger-relief partners throughout our region.
We continue to be in touch with the Monroe County Department of Health to ensure we are providing a safe volunteer experience — at both the Convention Center and our Distribution Center. Two points of emphasis they noted included: (A) Masks and gloves are unnecessary for sorting food, and actually pose a greater health risk — and could spread illness faster — if not used properly; and (B) Maintaining at least 6 feet of social distancing is one of the most important protocols we need to be communicating to our volunteers. Please help us abide by both of these rules in the weeks ahead!
The Convention Center shifts will resume Monday.
MORE VOLUNTEER SHIFTS!
Foodlink is now accepting small groups of volunteers in its distribution center, to help our staff keep up with our typical stream of food donations. We will continue to use the United Way’s volunteer portal to recruit healthy and willing volunteers. Check out the links below for the latest opportunities, March 31 through April 10.
Our President and CEO, Julia Tedesco, was the featured guest on Adam Interviews with News 8’s Adam Chodak. The interview aired Thursday night, but you can check out the extended version here.
The information posted on March 23 continues to be a priority for Foodlink, related to the recruitment of volunteers to help us pack a second round of 10,000 Emergency Food Supply Boxes — and where those in need of emergency food can find these boxes throughout our 10-county region in the week ahead.
Today, WXXI’s Connections diverged from the hard news and numbers associated with COVID-19 and how it has disrupted our way of life. Instead, it held a discussion about “one of the few activities that remains entirely appropriate during the pandemic.” Urban agriculture and gardening is a subject matter that Foodlink is passionate about, and we’re lucky to have Nathaniel Mich — a leading local expert on the topic — on our staff. He was invited to be part of the panel.
LISTEN: Check out the podcast
MORE VOLUNTEER SHIFTS!
As we near the end of our first 10,000 food boxes, we’re planning ahead for the next 10,000! The United Way’s volunteer portal has just opened up another eight days worth of shifts at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center!
Sign up for a shift today!
EMERGENCY FOOD SUPPLY BOXES
You’ve been hearing plenty about Foodlink’s Emergency Food Supply Boxes, and we’re poised to finish up packing our first 10,000 soon with the help of our gracious volunteers!
Below, you’ll find information about how those in need can access our emergency food network, which will begin receiving these boxes today and through the next couple weeks. Local food pantries and Mobile Pantry sites will serve as the main distribution points. As always, we are encouraging the public to contact 2-1-1 — or visit their website — to learn about a site near them.
Foodlink has also set up a hotline (# listed below) , to help people find a site and/or access an Emergency Food Supply Box.
One week down … many more to go.
It’s been a grueling week, but it’s also been our pleasure to serve you.
On to week 2 …
An amazing group of volunteers joined Foodlink Saturday at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center for the third of five shifts designated to pack 10,000 Emergency Food Supply Boxes for food-insecure households in our service area. It was our most efficient day yet, as 2,600 boxes were packaged with 45 pounds of food each … bringing the Week One total to 7,892! The final shifts are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
This came a day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order that mandated all non-essential workers stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — starting Sunday at 8 p.m. Foodlink sought clarification on the order to ensure that our volunteers could still assist us during this time of crisis. We confirmed that the order did, indeed, exempt volunteers that were critical to our operations.
Mark’s Pizzeria came through with their second straight day of providing free pizza to staff and volunteers at the Convention Center. They plan on returning Monday and Tuesday to continue their good will.
Finally, we were pleased to see two valued fellow non-profits chipping in today. Larry Marx, President & CEO of The Children’s Agenda, and Deb Rosen, Executive Director of Bivona Child Advocacy Center, were both hand Saturday to help us pack boxes.
Thanks to everyone for another impactful day!
We established a great partnership with the Town of Irondequoit and the Irondequoit Community Cupboard to host a food distribution today at Bishop Kearney High School.
Foodlink is approximately halfway to its goal of packing 10,000 Emergency Food Supply Boxes, for distribution to our existing emergency food network (food pantries, meal programs, shelters, & Mobile Pantry sites). The first set of those boxes — approximately 350 — were handed out in Irondequoit on Friday, as cars pulled up, and volunteers helped load the 45-pound boxes into vehicles. Residents pre-registered earlier in the week to receive a box.
“I’m glad that we were able to meet the need that was here, and I think it’s eye-opening for us that we’ll be needing to do this for several weeks, and figure out how we can all work together,” said Irondequoit Supervisor Dave Seeley.
Foodlink has a strong network of community partners ready and willing to step up in this time of crisis, but credited Irondequoit for organizing an excellent model for how to move emergency food into homes in a quick and efficient way.
“What you’re seeing is hundreds of residents from Irondequoit — low-income residents — receiving 50-pound boxes of food in a really controlled, safe, calm environment,” said President & CEO Julia Tedesco. “That’s what we hope every emergency food distribution for the time-being looks like.”
Tedesco said this is “Phase I” of Foodlink’s food banking response to COVID-19, with likely thousands more food boxes getting packed and delivered in the next several weeks.
Thank you so much to @daveseeley430 and @Irondequoit_ny for coordinating the distribution of 21,000 pounds of food for our community. More than ever, families need food on their table during this crisis — and we will continue our work to provide that security and stability. pic.twitter.com/PcmbWMDLUp— Joe Morelle (@RepJoeMorelle) March 20, 2020
SHIFTS ARE FULL!
Our Convention Center volunteer shifts are full! Thank you immensely to everyone who signed up through next Tuesday!
You can still sign up to be on our waiting list to hear about future opportunities by visiting the “Volunteer United” web portal.
UP AND RUNNING
Many thanks to the volunteers helping out today at the Convention Center! Your support is critical to help us get these Emergency Food Supply Boxes out the door, and into homes ASAP.
For our first day at the Convention Center and getting our bearings, things went remarkably well. Between the morning and afternoon shifts, we were able to pack more than 1,500 boxes!
Back at it tomorrow … and there are still a couple sign-up slots left for Friday/Saturday — and plenty more for Monday/Tuesday. Come join us!
DON’T FORGET MENTAL HEALTH
Foodlink was proud to partner with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Rochester to help address issues beyond food needs that may be affecting many of the people we serve during these difficult and uncertain times.
During today’s afternoon shift at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center, NAMI dropped off more than 5,000 small booklets on mental illness, suicide prevention and addition recovery, which we added to the food boxes going out to the public — starting Friday.
Thank you for your partnership!
LEARN MORE: NAMI Resource guide
CONVENTION CENTER PARTNERSHIP
Exciting news to share! Thanks to support from the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center, we’ll be able to open up two additional sorting stations at their facility to assist us with food distribution! Shifts for Thursday are now available through the United Way’s volunteer portal:
Please note: Once you click on the links above, you’ll be asked to read critical health information/instructions about who can safely volunteer for this activity — following the recommendations from local health officials and the CDC.
President & CEO Julia Tedesco participated in a virtual press conference with Mayor Lovely A. Warren on Wednesday to further discuss food and meal options for local residents during the COVID-19 crisis.
Key messages included:
- Foodlink has produced 12,000 meals in the last 3 days, and will prepare 8,000 more by the end of the week.
- Foodlink will have also packed 6,000+ emergency Emergency Food Supply Boxes filled with non-perishable food, by the end of the week. These boxes will go out to our network of emergency food providers, Mobile Pantry sites, and special food distributions. Foodlink intends to pack 10,000 of these 40-pound boxes by next week.
- Foodlink and RCSD continue to work with City R Centers and schools to adjust meal numbers to meet the needs of city residents. There remains 16 total sites serving the community at this time.
- Action For a Better Community also has partnered with Foodlink for “grab-and-go” lunches, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the following locations: 1772 Clifford Ave., 30 Hart St., 1150 Hudson Ave., and 640 Jefferson Ave.
- Foodlink is also partnering with the Maplewood YMCA — to fill a service gap in NW Rochester — to provide “grab-and-go” meals Monday through Friday (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), beginning on March 19.
- Tedesco also thanked the YMCA for being an important child care provider to residents during these uncertain times … including to employees at Foodlink.
- Foodlink will be partnering with Lifespan for home deliveries of meals to seniors by the end of the week.
- Foodlink also has set up a special food distribution with the Town of Irondequoit and the Irondequoit Community Cupboard this Friday at 10 a.m. at Bishop Kearney High School. The town is releasing information soon to allow people to pre-register for the distribution.
- Finally – Tedesco also praised 2-1-1 as a critical information hub at this time. Foodlink encourages all organizations to communicate up-to-date information with 2-1-1 staff to ensure our community has access to as many all resources as needed at this difficult time. From Program Director Deb Turner:
211/LL continues to be a committed 24/7 point of access for community members seeking resources like food and other non-medical needs. Currently 211 is being overwhelmed with food and other need requests, therefore we ask the community to remain patient as they work hard to get to each person in need and consider utilizing other access points like their website at 211lifeline.org or texting 898-211 for resources. Utilizing this multiple access points will help get more vital information out to more individuals and families in need.
EMERGENCY FOOD SUPPLY BOXES
On Tuesday morning, work began on assembling 10,000 boxes of food — Emergency Food Supply Boxes — filled with approximately 42 pounds of non-perishable foods.
Foodlink staff worked tirelessly all day in “First Sort” as boxes rolled down the conveyor belt. Foodlink will distribute these boxes at Mobile Pantry locations (link below), to our member agencies — and at special supplemental distributions in high-need communities. We will announce those dates and sites in the coming days.
Each box contains: 4 boxes of pasta, 4 jars of tomato sauce, 2 jars of peanut butter, 1 jar of jelly, 9 granola bars, 3 cans of chicken, 1 can of tuna, 1 jar of mayo, 3 cans of chickpeas, 3 cans of soup, 2 bags of dried beans, split peas or lentils, 3 cans of mixed vegetables, 3 cans of fruit, 2 cans of applesauce and 2 quarts of shelf-stable milk.
MOBILE PANTRY PROGRAM
Foodlink’s Mobile Pantry program is a vital resource for many communities seeking food assistance during the COVID-19 public health crisis. These free, monthly distributions include a wide variety of food products from Foodlink, and are hosted by dozens of community partners throughout our region. We update our schedule monthly and post it to our website at: http://bit.ly/FoodlinkMobilePantries
The local outbreak of COVID-19 has affected the operations and volunteer support for several of our community partners, leading some of them to cancel their distributions. Once we have a full sense of the cancellations, we will be working with community partners to create new distributions in high-need parts of our service area. We will be announcing these additional distributions soon, and updating our website accordingly.
Thank you for understanding.
UPCOMING DISTRIBUTIONS: Foodlink Mobile Pantry schedule
One key piece of information relayed from Sunday’s new conference was related to individuals and families that receive SNAP benefits. Additional benefits are available to households during this crisis — and it is being coordinated through the Monroe County’s Department of Human Services.
From their website:
SNAP recipients of households with children who would otherwise receive free or reduced-price meals if not for their schools being closed are eligible for emergency benefits. Households wishing to access this emergency benefit can call the SNAP Workgroup at 585-753-2740 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with a request. Additional waivers to the SNAP program administration will be forthcoming from NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
Individuals in need of a benefit cards should call 585-753-6006 for a card to be mailed to them within 24 hours.
The outpouring of the support from the community so far has been incredible. Many people have been donating to our COVID-19 Response Fund, and many others are asking about volunteer opportunities.
At this time, we are taking several precautionary measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. This, unfortunately, includes suspending our regular volunteer programming until April 3. We are doing this to ensure our efforts to provide food to the most vulnerable can continue. The safety of the community is our highest priority.
In partnership with United Way, however, we have developed a volunteer waitlist. As we monitor our needs, and those of our agencies, there may be some areas where we can safely invite volunteers to assist us. We will use this list to contact volunteers on an as-needed basis. Signing up does not guarantee you’ll be asked to volunteer, but you will be one of the first we contact should a need arise.
SIGN UP TODAY: United Way Volunteer Waiting List
Foodlink partners with 2-1-1 LIFELINE to ensure people can access information about food-related resources throughout our 10-county region. People can call 2-1-1 for help, or visit the following websites, depending on your county of residence:
Monroe, Ontario, Wayne, Seneca & Livingston: 2-1-1 LIFELINE Finger Lakes Region
Allegany & Yates: 2-1-1 Helpline Finger Lakes
Genesee, Orleans & Wyoming: 2-1-1 Western NY
Foodlink President & CEO Julia Tedesco joined city and county officials Sunday morning at a press conference at the Monroe County Office of Emergency Management.
Officials provided news updates on an array of services that would be provided to local residents in response to the COVID-10 (coronavirus) public health emergency. A vital service includes the distribution of food — especially to vulnerable populations and school-age children who depend on free and reduced-price meals at schools.
Officials announced that — starting Monday at 8 a.m. — 9 City R Centers and 7 schools will act as meal distribution sites. Foodlink will be preparing additional meals this week to assist the Rochester City School District meet the need for impacted families.
R Centers that will be providing 3 meals daily between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. include: Adams Street (85 Adams St.), Avenue D (200 Ave. D), Carter Street (500 Carter St.), Tyshaun Cauldwell (524 Campbell St.), Frederick Douglass (999 South Ave.), Flint Street (271 Flint St.), David Gantt (700 North St.), Trenton & Pamela Jackson — Clinton-Baden (485 N. Clinton Ave.), Thomas Ryan (530 Webster Ave.).
Schools that will be open from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday include:
East Upper & Lower School (1801 E. Main St). Dr. Freddy Thomas Campus (625 Scio St.), the former Jefferson High School (1 Edgerton Pk.), James Monroe High School (164 Alexander St.), John Williams School No. 5 (555 Plymouth Ave.), Wilson Foundation Academy (200 Genesee St.), School #42 (3330 Lake Ave.).
Foodlink will be providing 20,000 additional meals this week alone — to assist with this mass effort. Unlike our typical meal programs, in which students gather to eat, Foodlink is strongly encouraging grab-and-go meals this week, to ensure the safety and well-being of our neighbors and practice social distancing.
Foodlink’s food bank also will be receiving and distributing more than 2 million pounds of food to emergency food providers (pantries, shelters, meal programs) in the weeks ahead, to meet the rise in need as households seek to stock additional food items.
Tedesco urged pantries and other emergency food providers to remain open if they have the capacity to do so. Pantries can contact Foodlink for additional resources, and the public can find a pantry near them by calling 2-1-1 LIFELINE.
Finally, Foodlink is enormously grateful for the outpouring of support and donations, and also those who are willing to volunteer. While we have suspended large volunteer opportunities within our distribution center, the United Way is currently centralizing volunteer recruitment for numerous non-profits in the region. Prospective volunteers can contact the United Way for details.
Foodlink monitored Saturday morning’s news conference with Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Monroe County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza, during which officials confirmed the second case of coronavirus in Monroe County — and the first instance of “community spread” of the illness. The woman is an employee at Greece Arcadia Middle School, which resulted in the immediate closure of the Greece Central School District.
Hours later, Bello announced that all Monroe County school districts will be closed until further notice. Foodlink will be participating in a news conference Sunday at 10 a.m. with regard to emergency food and meal distribution plans.
In the past couple days, Foodlink has continued to communicate with local school districts to let them know that the Foodlink Community Kitchen can be a resource to help students and families who rely on free and reduced-priced meals. We have established plans to work with the Rochester City School District on providing thousands of meals — and have had productive conversations with other districts, as well.
In addition, Foodlink’s food bank will soon begin receiving additional food and supplies, which we will be packing next week to send to our hunger-relief partners across our 10-county area.
CASES IN NYS: Department of Health data table
Late Friday night, news broke that a U.S. District Court Judge issued an injunction that blocks the federal government from finalizing a rule change — scheduled to go into effect April 1 — that would have cut SNAP benefits for more than 700,000 people.
The proposed rule change would have limited states’ ability to waive a work requirement for a segment of the SNAP recipients called Able-bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs).
Below is a summary of how Foodlink is responding to COVID-19, including the escalation of parts of our operations to serve our community, and the suspension of others to mitigate community spread:
The emergency food system & our hunger-relief network
Foodlink’s priority throughout this public health crisis is to do everything possible to ensure our food-banking operations continue to serve food-insecure individuals and families in our 10-county region — and those who may be newly affected by risk-reduction measures. Foodlink is:
• Assessing our inventory and working through our supply chain to stock critical food and non-food items. We know demand will be high in the coming weeks and months, and we are preparing for it.
• Maintaining constant communication with our network of hunger-relief partners to ensure they have the resources needed to serve the public. We are encouraging them to remain open, while implementing appropriate risk-reduction measures.
• Implementing an expanded emergency food distribution schedule to meet the needs of low-income communities. We will work with our network of agencies throughout our 10-county service area, the City of Rochester and Monroe County to determine appropriate distribution points.
Foodlink is acutely aware of how potential school closures will impact students who rely on free and reduced-price meals. The Foodlink Community Kitchen is ready and willing to be part of the solution to ensure students remain nourished during these uncertain times. Foodlink will:
• Communicate with RCSD and other community partners on a contingency plan to feed children, should schools shut down temporarily.
• Ramp up our meal-production efforts by redirecting staff members, doubling shifts and/or maximizing the capacity of the Foodlink Community Kitchen, which currently produces 3,000-5,000 meals daily for after-school programs in Rochester.
Volunteers & visitors
Foodlink relies on thousands of volunteers to help us sort donated food and assist with our many food-related programs. Heeding the advice of the Monroe County Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control, Foodlink has implemented several social-distancing and risk-reduction measures at our facility. As a result, Foodlink has:
• Suspended all volunteer activities in our distribution center, effective March 16 through April 3. This policy will be reassessed in April.
• Posted guidelines and implemented a visitor policy at Foodlink that restricts people from entering our building if they have traveled to a high-risk region, or are showing signs of illness.
Foodlink serves the community through a wide variety of food-related programs, such as nutrition education classes, and the Curbside Market. Effective Monday, March 16, Foodlink is:
- Suspending our Curbside Market schedule for three weeks.
- Canceling all Nutrition Education classes and events for three weeks.
We will reassess both schedules in early April.
Thank you for your cooperation and understanding. Please contact 2-1-1 for further information about food-related resources in our region.