FoodLink, the first food bank to become a food hub, is approaching the redistribution of food in a whole new way. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a food hub is “a centrally located facility with a business management structure facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution and/or marketing of locally produced food products.” FoodLink, the regional food bank of the hunger-relief charity Feeding America, provides a region consisting of ten counties in central and western New York with food from local farms, wholesalers, and retailers. The reasoning behind this new local approach is explained on FoodLink’s website: “By increasing the amount of healthy food available to the network, fostering new food access channels and improving food literacy, Foodlink addresses the root causes of hunger.”
Across the Allegany, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming, and Yates Counties, FoodLink redistributes healthy, local food to over 500 member agencies. Food is accumulated by donation from retailers and wholesalers to be stored and processed in FoodLink’s New York facilities. FoodLink also purchases surplus, unharvested, and unsold product from local farmers. Redistribution reaches soup kitchens, shelters, food pantries, group homes, senior centers, and after-school programs across New York state. The food in question consists not only of canned products, but fresh produce, healthy meats, and dairy. Since its founding, FoodLink has redistributed over US$125 million worth of food to communities in its target region.
The Food Bank’s founder, Tom Ferraro, began in 1976 as an employee of Action for a Better Community. Through extensive advocacy and media appeal, Tom fought to support a network of emergency food pantries in his area.
Today, FoodLink distributes over 16 million pounds of food annually to its member agencies and 200,000 people in its 10 target counties benefit from and rely on FoodLink’s dedication and service. FoodLink runs numerous programs dedicated to alleviating hunger, making fresh food affordable and accessible to the community, and educating individuals about healthy and complete diets. The BackPack Program distributed bags of fresh, nutritious food to 1,800 children who normally receive free or reduced-price school lunches during the 2012-3 school year. Mobile Pantry, FoodLink’s traveling food pantry, reaches rural or under-served areas to redistribute food. FoodLink also partners with Share Our Strength to offer classes in Cooking Matters, a national program that teaches community members how to prepare nutritious meals with limited resources.
Little by little, FoodLink seeks to shift the focus of food banks from the symptoms of hunger to the causes. And above all, their “primary goal is to help underserved individuals and institutions access fresh, healthy, and affordable foods.”