One-year milestone: Foodlink reflects on response to pandemic


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — On March 15 a year ago, schools began to close their doors. Many workers would soon be furloughed. The question of putting food on the table became a reality for some families, who never thought it would be.

Local nonprofit Foodbank has been taking on the challenge of feeding these families throughout the health crisis, and hasn’t stopped since.

President and CEO Julia Tedesco shared some one-year reflections from that week. It was a time of standing at podiums for hours, day after day, surrounded by county leaders, addressing one basic human need — food.

As soon as the first COVID case hit Monroe County, the nonprofit’s efforts ramped up with thousands of grab and go lunches for school-age kids, and routine mass distributions which are still ongoing today. Foodlink partnered with the City of Rochester and Rochester City School District to make much of it possible.

Tedesco says nothing could prepare the team for those moments.

“We have a disaster preparedness plan, and we have assisted other food banks in other regions with national disasters, but nothing could prepare us for a global pandemic,” she said.

She and her team watched the news and developing game plans in the weeks leading up to the first case. Even though things turned out to be more difficult than anticipated, she remains proud of her staff for keeping up with it all.

“Packing emergency boxes, preparing meals for children in the city, helping create a temporary location to safely operate,” she said.

Tedesco says community donations and volunteers have increased, but food insecurities regionally and nationally are also up about 30-40%. She says there’s no way of telling how long the mass distributions will continue. But with more vaccinations, and arrival of the stimulus bill, there is hope things can get better.

“We will continue to do everything we can on any given day to make sure folks are fed and have access to healthy, affordable food.”

Foodlink has been collaborating with several agencies, food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens to help the community throughout the pandemic.

Between March 16, 2020 and March 15, 2021, Foodlink has prepared 872,921 meals and snacks for kids, organized 542 food drives, served 160,840 households, and distributed 25,382,534 total pounds of food.

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