Foodlink is poised to become the first recipient of American Rescue Plan Act funds from Monroe County. The county has allocated $1.4 million for the agency to expand food access to families.
Foodlink’s proposal is one of nearly 40 projects selected in Bring Monroe Back, the county’s plan to use funds received through ARPA, officials say. The county has received more than $144 million in federal dollars.
“American Rescue Plan Act funding will allow our community kitchen to expand our services and reach new community members,” says Julia Tedesco, Foodlink president and CEO. “We are grateful for this opportunity granted to us by Monroe County to serve quality food through models that historically were not eligible to participate in federal nutrition programs. We look forward to serving more multigenerational programs like Coldwater House, and we hope this initiative will serve as a model for the evolution of federal nutrition programs.”
Foodlink’s proposal aims to address drawbacks in Federal Nutrition Programs, which currently limits geographies and sets age limits. FNPs outside the city of Rochester must meet strict income qualifications and the government pays only for meals for children (ages 5-18) or seniors. The guidelines today exclude multigenerational programs—a hurdle in serving the growing need in towns like Gates, Greece and Irondequoit, officials say.
Foodlink hopes to serve quality, nutritious meals to multigenerational families in Monroe County through community programs like its meal delivery truck, which provides meals to underserved neighborhoods and to those in need. Foodlink has piloted the program in city neighborhoods for the last two summers. ARPA dollars will enable the program to expand into high-need areas in various towns and serve meals for multigenerational families at the Lewis Street YMCA Neighborhood Center in Rochester and Open Door Mission’s Coldwater House in Gates.
“The wellness and vitality of our community requires every person to have access to healthy and nutritious food, regardless of age or geographic location,” says Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. “During the height of the pandemic, we saw families across Monroe County impacted by food insecurity. Even today, we see both city and suburban food pantries and food cupboards struggling to meet increased demand. Partnering with Foodlink will allow us to reach more people in need.”
Bello acknowledged the support of Rep. Joseph Morelle and Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand in securing the recovery funds.
Through Bring Monroe Back, the county’s Department of Planning conducted a communitywide survey, organized public meetings and heard testimony from organizations to determine funding priorities. The plan is now before the Monroe County Legislature for approval.
The programs align with Bello’s four pillars for the county’s future: public health and wellness, public safety, economic and workforce development and infrastructure.
Once the Legislature approves the plan, the county will enter into a contract with Foodlink. The agreement is likely to begin early next year.
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name.