Community Spotlight: Foodlink

Wegmans employees and Foodlink staff prepare meals for people in need in June.

Addressing Hunger Together During a Global Pandemic

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way most people live. Many Americans have found themselves without jobs, while others are working remotely. Students are learning virtually, and many families are now eating the majority of their meals at home. With this abrupt shift in people’s daily lives, the services provided by food banks are now more important than ever. At Wegmans, one of our highest giving priorities is providing food for people at risk of hunger. Each year, Wegmans donates more than 18.5 million pounds of food to local food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens in all the communities we serve.

When the pandemic hit, food banks throughout the country experienced an immediate surge in demand. We were keenly aware of this increased need and the gap of time that would exist before government assistance arrived. We also realized our food bank partners rely heavily on the funds raised during our annual Check Out Hunger campaigns, and that this year, those campaigns may not be possible. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, we donated $4 million across all 47 of our partner food banks on March 26 to fill the immediate need and ensure our longtime partners wouldn’t miss out on the funds typically raised during our customer-giving campaigns.

In our hometown, we have partnered with Foodlink, the food bank serving the greater-Rochester region, for more than four decades. Each year, Foodlink receives approximately 4 million pounds of food from our stores and reclamation center. We also provide them with support through programs like Check Out Hunger, the Foodlink Career Fellowship, and other fundraisers. Additionally, our employees volunteer with the organization as needs arise.

Responsible for serving food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, day cares, group homes, and senior centers throughout its 10-county service area, the team at Foodlink suddenly found themselves working around the clock to source and distribute food to those in need. From our March donation, Foodlink received $700,000, determined by the number of Wegmans stores in their service area, as well as an additional $55,000 that we supplied through the United Way of Greater Rochester’s Crisis Fund. Foodlink put the funds to immediate use, addressing the increased demand for meals for school-aged kids, as well as creating tens of thousands of emergency food supply boxes for seniors and food-insecure households to ensure they had healthy meal options. Knowing Foodlink was already stretched thin, Wegmans offered up six culinary employees to assist the food bank’s culinary team with the creation of meals for Rochester youth. These employees have worked more than 2,800 hours to feed nearly 500,000 meals to local kids, and they will continue to produce meals with Foodlink as long as the need remains.

“We are so thankful for all our employees who continue to rise to the occasion to serve, inspire, and care for our communities during this difficult time,” said Linda Lovejoy, Wegmans community relations manager. “We are proud to come together with others in our community to help with the incredible efforts of these organizations.”

In March, Foodlink set up a temporary operation center in downtown Rochester to pack emergency food supply boxes. Over the course of the next few months, the operation center was forced to relocate on two separate occasions with very little notice, sometimes less than 48 hours. Committed to helping in any way we can, Wegmans provided Foodlink with pallets, boxes, trucks and manpower to assist with moving thousands of pounds of food from one location to another. The operation center continues to provide a safe, spacious place for volunteers to work; ensuring that Foodlink can put food on the table for thousands of families in the Rochester region during this difficult time.

A Wegmans truck unloads product at the loading dock at one of Foodlink’s temporary operation centers while assisting them with a last-minute move on April 10.

“Wegmans’ critical support of our COVID-19 response is yet another example of how their team has played an integral role in Foodlink’s operations and mission for more than four decades,” said Julia Tedesco, president and CEO of Foodlink. “Foodlink and the thousands of people in our region impacted by their generosity during this crisis are thankful for their commitment to the communities they serve.”

As uncertainty lingers, food banks will continue to serve a imperative role in every community. Wegmans is dedicated to continuing our support of these vital organizations in all of our markets to ensure that their services will continue to be available for everyone who needs them.