Standing at Foodlink, the regional food bank based in Rochester, NY, as families prepare for Thanksgiving, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today revealed how the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which supports 21,000+ kids, moms, and babies in the Finger Lakes region, is in limbo. Schumer explained that this program is especially vital for Rochester’s Foodlink as the operator of the nation’s first and only WIC-eligible mobile curbside grocery store — the Curbside Market — and if this program were to not receive additional funds by mid-January it could have many families struggling to keep food on the table after the holiday season.
WIC serves to safeguard the health of low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating including breastfeeding promotion and support, and referrals to health care. A wide variety of state and local organizations cooperate in providing food and health care benefits, and 46,000 merchants nationwide accept WIC vouchers.
“Every Finger Lakes family deserves access to nutritious and affordable food to put on their dinner tables. As Thanksgiving and the holiday season approaches, it is more important, now than ever before, that Rochester and Foodlink can serve struggling families in our communities,” said Senator Schumer. “We must not leave the vital funding for this program off the dinner plate for the over 21,000 kids, babies and moms who need fresh and healthy food most. The recipe to successfully help families access the healthy food they deserve without the fear of funding running out is clear. Making this investment is the key ingredient needed, which is why I’m pushing to safeguard our Rochester families and the vital foodbanks like Foodlink that families here rely on to afford the nutritious food they need.”
Schumer explained that with funding for WIC set to run low in two months, he is pushing Congress to fund this critical program to ensure that Rochester kids and mothers continue to have the resources to purchase healthy foods at Foodlink’s mobile curbside grocery during and beyond the holiday season. Schumer said that without additional federal funding, states may start to cut enrollments by creating waitlists and halting outreach, which would be devastating for the Finger Lakes families who rely on WIC and food banks like Foodlink to put healthy, affordable, and fresh food on the table.
In 2021, Foodlink’s Curbside Market program became the first mobile WIC vendor in the country providing milk, fresh produce, and other healthy foods important for kids and mothers. Over the past few years, Foodlink has been able to grow its mobile Curbside Market program in Rochester to expand healthy food options for families that use WIC. The food bank is especially important to the Rochester community because access to healthy food options is extremely limited for the families that use WIC, and their mobile Curbside Market is the only mobile market in the nation that is approved to accept WIC payments.\
Curbside Market: Learn more and check out our schedule!
“We stand with Senator Schumer in calling on Congress to increase WIC funding due to the recent rise in enrollment and higher food prices,” said Julia Tedesco, President & CEO of Foodlink. “This critical nutrition program has historically received bipartisan support. A lack of funding could have an adverse effect on the health and well-being of hundreds of thousands of children, which is why policymakers should act swiftly to meet this urgent need.”
“WIC has helped me focus on my family’s nutrition since 2015.” said Whitley Hasty, Foodlink’s Benefits Navigation Coordinator. “WIC has been the most life-saving program for American families since 1972 when we began to approach poverty with the principle that food is also medicine. With so much uncertainty today, my hope is that families like mine can once again count on our government to provide this vital program with the resources and funding it needs. Otherwise, we are actively choosing to give up on the health of our most vulnerable group of citizens.”
Take Action: Tell Congress to fund WIC!
Currently, Foodlink’s six mobile curbside markets park at 65 mobile sites per week across the region, and the food bank’s mobile sites serve over 1,000 people a week.
Senator Schumer has been a long-time advocate for Foodlink. In 2022, Schumer secured $750,000 for Foodlink to build a new freezer and cold storage facility to increase capacity to safely store and distribute more fresh vegetables, fruits, dairy and lean protein to hunger relief partners. In 2016, Schumer secured $125,000 in federal funding for Foodlink to expand their Curbside Market and Lexington Avenue Urban Farm program to provide fresh and affordable food to individuals in low-income communities throughout the Greater Rochester area.