There’s a new café at Rochester’s Central Library and it’s different from a traditional restaurant model.

It’s called the Foodlink Community Café, run by Foodlink, the hub for emergency food needs throughout the Rochester area.

But it’s different from some of the lunch places that have been in that location at the Bausch and Lomb library building in the past, such as Starry Nites, Tim Horton’s and Simply Crepes.

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Foodlink is phasing out its drive-through food distribution events in Monroe County that started over a year ago at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

The effort was never intended to be more than an emergency stop-gap measure.

"It enabled us to get a lot of food to a lot of households in a very safe manner as we were struggling through this public health crisis," said Foodlink president and CEO Julia Tedesco. "We knew it couldn't last forever; it's not a very sustainable model."

Max Schulte / WXXI News

Tom Silva splits his work days lobbying politicians for Foodlink and working with people who are food insecure.

He said the federal government’s nearly $7 billion investment in fighting food insecurity is badly needed now, because food insecurity has spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic. The money is part of the package signed into law by President Joe Biden on Thursday as part of the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus plan.


The economic disruption caused by the pandemic has meant more work for local food banks, and the umbrella organization for the Rochester region, Foodlink.

Chief Strategy Officer Mitch Gruber, also a member of City Council, said that Foodlink has worked to provide additional help with so many people out of work. That includes drive-through food distributions over the last several months.

Noelle E. C. Evans | WXXI News

Foodlink and Partnership for a Healthier America announced on Thursday a collaboration with the COVID-19 Fresh Food Fund. 

Rochester residents economically affected by the pandemic will be able to access fresh and local produce through curbside markets.

“It’s unreal what the impact of that is on people’s ability to access food or people’s ability to feed their families,” said Mitch Gruber, Foodlink's chief strategy officer and a Rochester City Council member. 

photo provided by YMCA of Greater Rochester


The YMCA of Greater Rochester announced the opening of a Center for Equity in the Scio Street and Marketview Heights neighborhood on Tuesday. 


The center on Lewis Street currently offers free, drop-in academic support for up to 100 students taking online classes, as well as breakfast and lunch through a partnership with Foodlink. Future offerings will include counseling. 

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The concept of a citizen-led council to inform the community's approach to health and food equity has been discussed in Rochester for decades, according to City Councilman Mitch Gruber.

Now, Foodlink, Common Ground Health and the city of Rochester say it's time to create a food policy council.

"We do not have any designs around what this should be," said Gruber, who is also Foodlink's chief strategy officer. "We're going to use experts and consultants from places like Johns Hopkins to help us figure out makes sense here."

Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers will be getting more money than usual to help with groceries this month, the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance said Monday.

The office said all 750,000 people enrolled in the SNAP program will receive the maximum allowable payment this month, even though some households usually only qualify for a portion of that amount.

Max Schulte / WXXI News

Cars were backed up a block at times as people came to the Boys and Girls Club Thursday to pick up food. 

Most people came by car, while others walked with laundry or shopping carts. Three hundred people were registered for this one and hundreds more for similar events around the area.

Foodlink’s emergency food box distributions are going on throughout the Finger Lakes region. 

There are three distributions in Monroe County this week, two in the city of Rochester, and the other at the East Rochester Municipal building. 

But distributions are also taking place in Genesee, Ontario, Livingston, Seneca, Wayne, and Wyoming counties. 

Foodlink said a typical box includes pasta, canned goods, cereal, among other items.

All distributions will take place in large, open spaces like parking lots in order to maintain social distancing.