A number of industries -- from manufacturing to food -- are experiencing a middle skills gap. The Foodlink Career Fellowship seeks to help fill those gaps and reduce poverty in the Rochester area.

The program will wrap up its inaugural year this week. We sit down with a program participant and organizers who share its results and discuss the state of the industry. 

  • Gloria Soldevila Ramos, member of the inaugural cohort of the Foodlink Career Fellowship
  • Mitch Gruber, chief strategy officer for Foodlink, and member of Rochester City Council
  • Lindsy Bennage, training and development coordinator for Wegmans

Caitlin Whyte/WXXI News

In just a few weeks, when the nights get warmer, it'll be time to plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and other vegetables.

People will be digging into soil all around the city -- in vacant lots, behind schools, at libraries and even medians in the road.  There are more than 120 community gardens and urban farms in Rochester.

Nathaniel Mich, Foodlink's edible education and urban farming specialist, said he hears from more and more people, especially young people, who have an interest in growing their own food.

Foodlink has launched a new workforce development program aimed at bridging the middle skills gap in the food industry and helping to reduce poverty in our region. It's called the Foodlink Career Fellowship, and its 12 trainees are taking classes and receiving hands on training.

In this episode of our Summer of Food series, we talk about the program, and we hear from a member of the inaugural class about what she hopes to accomplish with her new skills. Our guests: 

  • LaRhonda "Rudy" Harris, member of the inaugural class of Foodlink's Career Fellowship program
  • Mitch Gruber, chief programs offcer at Foodlink, and member of Rochester City Council
  • Jes Scannell Rooks, director of career empowerment initiatives at Foodlink
  • John Emerson, chef and vice president of prepared foods at Wegmans Food Markets

The author of a new book about food insecurity says food banks and food pantries were never meant to be permanent parts of our country. Andrew Fisher is a food security expert. He says food banks have become big business, and their ties to corporate America actually build on the underlying systemic issues that cause hunger.

He joins us to discuss how he thinks anti-hunger programs need to change. We also discuss the concept of the social purpose grocery, and how our community is addressing the root causes of hunger. In studio:

The Rochester Table Top Opera will present a new version of Gustav Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder to raise awareness of child mortality and child poverty in Rochester.

We preview the performance and discuss how organizations throughout our community are working together to improve outcomes for children. Our guests:

  • Matthew Brown, professor of music theory at the Eastman School of Music, and founding member of the Table Top Opera
  • Chris Farnum, volunteer coordinator of the Backpack Food Program at First Unitarian Church
  • Laura Sugarwala, member relations manager for Foodlink

What in the world happened with Constantino's Market in College Town? You know -- the one that opened not too long ago, to great fanfare, with Senator Chuck Schumer boasting of the federal dollars he secured to help with a food desert? And yes, the one that just closed, before it ever really got started?

The team at Foodlink says this was a bad judgment, and it's important to understand what a food desert is, and isn't. It's important to understand what "food insecure" means. So let's talk about all of that and more. Our guests:

New Report Shows Gap in Summer Meals Program

Mar 6, 2013

City and school officials are joining forces to encourage more families to participate in Rochester's Summer Meals Program.

More than 21,000 students qualify for the free service that provides balanced meals to youth living in low-income households, but only about 5,000 students participated in the program last year. A recent report by the Center for Governmental Research determined not only is the program widely underutilized, most families that qualify are completely unaware the program even exists.