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Foodlink leading fight against rising food insecurity in Rochester region

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Rochester, New York – There has been a tremendous increase: 33,000 more individuals in our community are now facing food insecurity.

Foodlink and its food pantry partners are working to reverse this trend since the total in the Finger Lakes region has surpassed 151,000.

“That data demonstrates a massive increase in food insecurity from 2021 to 2022 — a single-year jump we have not seen or experienced since the Great Recession,” explained Julia Tedesco, president and CEO of Foodlink.

This new figure is the largest number of persons facing food insecurity since 2015.
Information gathered in 2022 reveals the effects of inflation, increasing food costs, and the termination of specific perks.

“It also shows what happens when government programs designed and proven to reduce poverty and food insecurity are left to expire,” Tedesco said. “Specifically, I’m talking about the child tax credit, free school meals, and increased SNAP benefits — all gone within a year.”

The 14605 ZIP code in Rochester is one of the most affected areas. The food insecurity rate in the area is the third highest in all of New York.

Those fighting on the front lines see this as more than simply statistics.

“There is a grandfather that rides his bike three miles to come to the food pantry to find food for his grandson he’s responsible for,” said Dawn Burdick with the Rochester Hope North Clinton Food Pantry. “There is a mother who walks from Lyell Avenue to North Clinton with her two toddlers and a 3-month-old baby, and then walks home again.”

In its early days, forty families made use of the food pantry at First Genesis Baptist Church on Hudson Avenue, which is part of Straight From The Heart Community Outreach.
It has now risen to nearly 100.

“When you see people in the community starving and not being able to have what they need, it hurts. It hurts us who supply it,” said LaVada Howard with Straight From The Heart.

Our more rural towns also face that challenge.

“One mother in Canandaigua recently shared that she has three young children, and those children are fed at school every day. But at home, the pantry is bare,” said Gwen Van Laeken, executive director of The Partnership for Ontario County. “So, they are sharing an alternating schedule for sharing dinner each night.”

These difficulties arise at a time when donations to Foodlink and its affiliates are falling. They insist their labor won’t cease until the community backs them.

“When the people come in and they’re so appreciative, you just can’t help but love what you’re doing,” Howard said.

 

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