Poh Ling Yeow said “The thing I absolutely love about food is it’s a common thread that connects us no matter what culture we come from.” If you look at the incredible Foodlink, this quote speaks to the essence, the heart of what this mighty non-profit practices everyday in Rochester, New York and the ten counties they serve.
Forty-two years ago the founder of Foodlink Tom Ferraro knew there were people who were hungry and in need of food. This resourceful person also knew there were businesses that had more food than they could sell. So he called around to see who would donate food. Delicious Thomas English Muffins said they would gladly help out. When Tom went to pick up the english muffins with his station wagon there were so many packages of english muffins he needed to get a school bus which they filled to the brim. When Foodlink partners with Wegmans to “Fill The Bus” it pays tribute to Tom Ferraro whose passion and purpose of living outside the box began a non-profit whose mission to “leverage the power of food to end hunger and build healthier communities” continues today.
I live in Rochester, N.Y., home of Foodlink, so I thought I was fairly knowledgeable about this non-profit. In speaking with Krista Jenkins, the Development Manager Annual Giving who graciously shared her valuable time to talk with me, I discovered that Foodlink has a plethora of programs I had no idea about.
“Food is not just fuel. Food is about family, food is about community, food is about identity. And we nourish all those things when we eat well.” Michael Pollan
Foodlink does not only link people to food. Foodlink is guided by values, led by compassion, and partners with the people it serves to provide opportunities to access healthy nutritious food. There are programs that teach children cooking skills and adults career opportunities with the Foodlink Career Fellowship, which provides a pathway to employment and stable jobs. The Curbside Market, Mobile Pantry, Healthy Meals, Backpack Program, Nutrition Education, and Lexington Farm are some of the offerings of the banquet of services at Foodlink. There are focus groups where staff from Foodlink meet with groups of people in all the areas they serve to learn from them what is needed, what could help. Krista echoed a sentiment that is reflective of the staff. The people they serve are the heroes. They are the ones whose courage and bravery inspire the staff to do what they do every day.
According to Feeding America “prior to the COVID19 crisis began, more than 37 million people, including more than 11 million children, lived in a food-insecure household” in the United States. Since COVID19 those rates have skyrocketed. What did Foodlink do to respond to these staggering numbers? All hands on deck. Yep everyone at Foodlink did whatever was needed. No grumbling. No complaining. Lots of working, willingly, to provide nutritious food to anyone who needed it with dignity and compassion. One of the concern’s of Julie Tedesco, the CEO of Foodlink, was the impact on this hardworking staff who were doing so much during this challenging time. Krista shared that she and the Foodlink staff love working for Foodlink. No one minded doing what they needed to help someone in need of food.
“The people who give you their food give you their heart.” Cesar Chavez
The fearless leadership at Foodlink has never backed down from doing what is right for the community it serves. They continue to explore and identify ways to prevent food insecurity, improve how SNAP benefits can be utilized, improve distributions in food chains, advocate for better funding. This is always done in partnership with the people they serve. Putting people first. Building community, bringing dignity and joy to the people while linking them with food. As Virginia Woolf said “one cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Foodlink does everything they can to provide food so everyone can think well, love well, and sleep well.
Foodlink’s commitment to end hunger and build healthier communities is evident in what they do and how they do it. They are making a difference, they are building healthier communities and all of us are better for it.
We are humbled and honored to feature in our kindness champion spotlight such a magnificent organization. We thank everyone at Foodlink for what you do everyday to care, support, educate, and fight for providing food and the right to healthy food to all.
To learn more about this incredible organization here is the contact information.