A decade ago, the theme of Foodlink’s Community Food Conference would have undoubtedly been different.
More food? Infrastructure improvements? Attracting volunteers and donors? Yes, yes and yes.
These days, however, we’re covering those topics while devoting a significant amount of attention to health and nutrition. It’s vital to understand how the emergency food system and health care system intersect.
Executive Director Julia Tedesco gave the conference’s opening remarks and offered a famous food-related quote on which the audience could reflect.
“The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison.”
Dr. Steve Cook, a pediatrician & internist at UR Medicine — and an expert on obesity — spoke about the research he’s done that shows how healthy food access relates to obesity, which he emphasized as a disease with multiple physical and physiological factors, rather than simply a weight issue.
A telling visual of food access in the City of Rochester was showed on a map of the city, with banana icons representing grocery stores and produce vendors, and french fry icons that represented fast food and corner stores. The fries won. By a lot.
Wednesday marked the second of three conferences Foodlink is hosting as a means of bringing its network of member agencies together to network, learn best practices, and share our successes and challenges. Foodlink has a network of nearly 500 agencies throughout its service area — those that offer emergency (food pantries, soup kitchens, etc.) and non-emergency (day cares, senior centers, etc.) food service.
After Dr. Cook’s presentation, a panel discussion followed. Panelists included Dr. Cook, Foodlink’s Mitch Gruber (Chief Programs Officer), Eat Smart New York’s Maggie Barone-McHugh and Pamela Johnson, a Nutrition Outreach amd Education Program (NOEP) coordinator with the Monroe County Legal Assistance Center.
Agency representatives also signed up for a pair of breakout sessions. Topics included: Improving Nutrition, Stretching your Budget, Food Safety, Agency Best Practices, Managing Finances, Succession Planning, Connecting with Public Health, and Fundraising.
The day concludes with a series of round-tables, where agencies can learn about various Foodlink programs, such as the Curbside Market, our Enabled Agencies program, and are various Nutrition Education options. Attendees were also given a tour of Foodlink’s new Community Kitchen.
With two down and one to go, it’s been tremendous experience gathering so many like-minded organizations and kind-hearted people together for a talk about our community needs and how we can address them in an effective and dignified manner.
Foodlink can’t achieve our goals without a strong network.
They know that and we know that. And we’re grateful for everything they do.
VIDEOS: Below are two videos prepared for the conference that offer a sneak peak at what our agencies do for those in need.