04.13.10

SCHUMER URGES FEDS TO ACCEPT ROCHESTER BASED FOODLINK'S APPLICATION TO AMERICORPS PROGRAM IN ORDER TO REDUCE HUNGER, STRENGTHEN ROCHESTER COMMUNITY THROUGH NEW, INNOVATIVE URBAN AGRICULTURE MODEL

Foodlink's Innovative Urban Agriculture Program Can Become National Model Economic Downturn Has Greatly Increased Need for Food Assistance in Rochester Area Schumer: Promoting New and Innovative ways to Feed the Hungry, Help New York's Children During Economic Downturn Is a Top Priority

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer has announced that he has written a personal letter to the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, Patrick Corvington, urging him to accept the New York City Coalition Against Hunger's application to the AmeriCorps program. The application, if accepted, would send 9 AmeriCorps members to the Rochester region to work with local residents to address the need for increased food and nutrition programs. The AmeriCorps members would also use their time in the Rochester region to implement a new program called the Urban Agriculture and Community Garden Initiative, which would increase local food production through cutting edge models. The New York City Coalition on Hunger has partnered with the Rochester, New York based  Foodlink in an effort to address rising food insecurity in the RochesterFinger Lakes Region. Foodlink is emerging as a leader in the field of urban agriculture, and if urban agriculture is given the proper implementation efforts, it could be a huge boost to the city of Rochester. The city  has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the country 88% of Rochester students are eligible for free or reducedprice lunch.

 

"The continuing economic downturn has taken a heavy toll on working families and I'm committed to making sure that Rochester's kids have access to the healthy food they need to nurture strong bodies and minds," Schumer said. "Combining AmeriCorp's dedication to service with Foodlink's cutting edge agriculture techniques will do a tremendous amount of good for the entire Rochester region."

 

Foodlink, Inc. serves Rochester and surrounding underserved, areas in Upstate New York. In the Rochester area that Foodlink serves, 88% of residents have incomes at 130% of the federal poverty level or below; 43.6% have income levels between $500999 per month, with an average household income of $880 per month.  Rochester has one of the highest child poverty rates in the country, with 88.4% of students eligible for free or reducedprice lunch and 76% of children in poverty living in a household headed by a single mother.  Only 25% of these children participate in summer meals and only 54% obtain free school breakfasts. 

 

 The Urban Agriculture and Community Garden initiative is sponsored by the City of Rochester, which works to decrease food insecurity through projects such as schoolbased gardening, innovative technology (hydroponics, aeroponics, green roofs), and increased collaboration with outlying, rural counties & local farmers. Foodlink's goal is to dramatically increase Summer Meals participation by utilizing produce grown through these initiatives.

 

Acceptance of the Hunger Coalition's application will allow 9 AmeriCorps members to come to the Rochester Area to work with community leaders on ways to best address the rising problem of food insecurity. For example, AmeriCorps members would be able to go out into rural communities and train volunteers so that they can better serve these rural communities that often lack vital services. Overall, AmeriCorps members will work with the local community to design, implement and streamline innovative agricultural programs that deliver vital services to children and families in need.

 

Schumer added, "Building strong communities and families starts with making sure our children have the resources they need, like food and nutrition, to start their life on a forwardlooking path. By partnering with Foodlink, AmeriCorps will make a critical investment in the Rochester area and I strongly support this application."

 

 Mr. Patrick Corvington, CEO

Corporation for National and Community service

1201 New York Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20525

 

Dear Mr. Corvington:

 

I am writing to ask that you provide all due consideration to New York City Coalition Against Hunger's application for an AmeriCorps grant to create a National AntiHunger and Empowerment Corps that will fight hunger and improve nutrition, thereby expanding economic opportunity and ensuring healthy futures for Americans living in both rural and urban areas in eight states ranging from Maine to Alaska.

 

In 2008, over 49 million Americans - including 19 million children - struggled with hunger or what the USDA refers to as "food insecurity."  To redress this problems, and to better fill the unmet needs of economically and socially disadvantaged Americans, NYCCAH is proposing to build upon its success in running NYCbased AmeriCorps projects by joining with highly respected partner antihunger organizations to launch a multistate, national antihunger AmeriCorps program.

 

One of the partners will be the esteemed nonprofit organization Foodlink, Inc., which serves Rochester and surrounding underserved areas of and upstate New York. In 2008, over 11% of New York State residents were food insecure and yet, according to USDA, in 2007, 39% of those eligible, including 52% of working residents, failed to receive USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ("SNAP," formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) benefits. Of the people in the Rochester area that Foodlink serves, 88% had incomes at 130% of the federal poverty level or below; 43.6% had income levels between $500999 per month, with an average household income of $880 per month.  Rochester has one of the highest child poverty rates in the country, with 88.4% of students eligible for free or reducedprice lunch and 76% of children in poverty living in a household headed by a single mother.  Only 25% of these children participate in summer meals and only 54% obtain free school breakfasts. 

 

To respond to those problems, the proposed program would place two quartertime, five halftime, and two fulltime AmeriCorps Members with Foodlink to recruit host sites and eligible individuals to participate in federal nutrition programs, including Summer Meals and AfterSchool Snack programs.  This outreach will benefit 15,000 people, 5,000 of whom will be prescreened for eligibility. AmeriCorps will help submit over 3,000 public benefit applications resulting in over 2,000 new recipients. 

 

Although Foodlink provides technical assistance to its member food pantries and soup kitchens, many located in rural or very distant areas do not receive regular training and support, and since 85% of pantries, 74% of kitchens, and 48% of shelters have reported an increase in the number of clients they serve since 2006, increased technical support is critical. AmeriCorps Members in this project will work to design, implement and deliver more streamlined and frequent trainings and assistance to agencies. Through these programs, Members will help serve over 130,000 people and help distribute over 10 million pounds of food.  Over 20,000 additional meals/food bags will be served.

 

In addition, Foodlink leads the major Urban Agriculture and Community Garden initiative sponsored by the City of Rochester, which works to decrease food insecurity through projects such as schoolbased gardening, innovative technology (hydroponics, aeroponics, green roofs), and increased collaboration with outlying, rural counties & local farmers. Foodlink's goal is to dramatically increase Summer Meals participation by utilizing produce grown through these initiatives. AmeriCorps Members will also act as community liaison in any urban agriculture initiatives Foodlink undertakes and they will help create 20 additional community gardens and work to expand 12 community gardens resulting in providing an additional 10,000 pounds of food.  AmeriCorps Members will also conduct farmers' market outreach to over 50,000 people, resulting in a 10,000person increase in market usage, with a combined 6% increase in SNAP, WIC, and senior coupons use. Nearly 60% of pantries throughout the 10county service area of this food bank have no paid staff; 40% of the kitchens also rely solely on volunteers.  Foodlink directlyplaced volunteers logged 26,000 hour in 2009 alone, with only one paid volunteer coordinator on staff. Members will work alongside the staff Volunteer Coordinator to help manage and develop new volunteer recruitment and training strategies; this will include leveraging fundraisers and community events to gain volunteers.  Members will increase community volunteer activities by 10% by recruiting over 190 volunteers, managing over 950 volunteers who will serve over 28,500 total volunteer hours in the service year. 

 

This proposed program, if funded, would provide significant benefits to the nation and to the State of New York and I urge you to give it full consideration.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

                                                                           

Charles Schumer

United States Senator



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