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Where Job Skills Are on the Menu

In Rochester, food preparation is job preparation

Foodlink’s founder, Tom Ferraro, once said, “There is no thinking outside the box. There is only living outside the box.”

To solve problems outside the box, you have to live there, and Foodlink does, with 11 programs that span traditional mobile food pantries to a backpack program that gives kids food they can prepare at home. Altogether, Foodlink distributes 19 million pounds of food a year.

Now, with help from the McGowan Fund, a new 28,000-square-foot industrial kitchen has tripled the organization’s capacity to deliver meals to children in the area. “We have by far the healthiest meal in town,” notes Executive Director Julia Tedesco. The kitchen also boosts Foodlink’s capacity to slice and bag apples from two cases an hour to 30. That out-of-the-box program provides income to the food bank while giving an economic boost to the region’s farmers.

But perhaps the most dynamic aspect of the kitchen is the workforce development program, which offers training in food processing and preparation, giving participants the experience and skills to secure entry-level employment. This program will grow, adding modules that help participants pursue a number of career paths in the regional food sector.