Since 2013, Foodlink and its Curbside Market have become staples in the Greater Rochester area. In that span, Flo Clemmons — Foodlink’s Director of Community-Based Strategies — has been working to help the Rochester community gain an understanding of just what her organization does to combat hunger and provide better food access.
Supplying the community with access to fresh and affordable fruits and vegetables has been the intention behind Foodlink’s Curbside Market over the past decade. The YMCA of Greater Rochester has played a significant role in that; one of the first Rochester locations to host the Curbside Market was The Thurston Road YMCA Neighborhood Center, which it still stops in front of each Wednesday for the 19th ward community.
“We built that relationship trying to connect not only the exercise and the wellness through that, but connecting all that wellness with food too. It’s always been a great partnership with the Y,” said Clemmons.
Foodlink currently visits three YMCA locations in Rochester. In addition to The Thurston Road YMCA Neighborhood Center, the Curbside Market can be spotted outside the YMCA of Greater Rochester’s Association Office and the Maplewood Family YMCA each week.
One piece of the YMCA’s partnership with Foodlink is the Nutritional Education Programming that is provided at branches. To coincide with the Curbside Market’s Wednesday visits to Maplewood, Foodlink also works alongside Lifespan by having its food educators come in to provide nutritional-based programs to the Active Older Adults who frequent the Lily Cafe. The concept behind it all is to give members healthy food ideas to consider, but also provide them the ingredients to take what they learned and try new recipes at home.
“Yes, you’re purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables and grocery items but some struggle with how to prepare them. So we bring very simple, healthy recipe items and we also get the community involved in the cooking classes as well,” said Clemmons. “At the Maplewood YMCA, through Lifespan, not only just doing a demonstration, but we’re getting the folks involved to help us do those demonstrations, so that’s really key.”
But the programming doesn’t stop there with Foodlink and the YMCA. Foodlink provides meals and snacks through various programs, specifically its recent partnership in the Rochester Summer Meals Program, after-school meals, and meals for seniors at Ashley Woods at Penfield Square, which is located in the plaza adjacent to the Eastside Family YMCA.
Considering these programs, the fact that the Curbside Market accepts multiple forms of payment including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as (SNAP), and is the United States’ first mobile market to accept Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits, Foodlink has already taken strides to help those throughout the region with nutritional food access.
There are other goals in mind for Foodlink, like making customers who may be WIC eligible more comfortable with exercising that benefit, extending the organization’s partnerships with its Fruits and Vegetables Prescription Program, and implementing an online ordering system. But even looking ahead, Foodlink plans to have the YMCA continue to be a part of its many endeavors in the future.
“The partnership with the YMCA’s been awesome. We’re all on the same page,” said Clemmons. “That’s why we’re here in these various locations. It’s really open to everyone. And we’re continuing to ask to really get the word out and encouraging people that come to the Y to take advantage of it.”