A recent City article has created understandable concern among readers and non-profit organizations.
In our cover article "Need to Feed," published February 18 and placed on our website that week, we included several quotes containing false statements and unfair accusations about local non-profit groups that distribute food to the needy.
Those statements should not have appeared in the article, and publishing them was a serious violation of journalistic ethics. As this week's letter from FOODLINK'S Jaime Wemett Saunders notes, volunteers at food cupboards and other food distributors make an enormous contribution to the Greater Rochester community and its neediest residents.
In addition, the article contained several factual errors. The UPS Foundation has contributed $25,000 to Friends Helping Friends, not $20,000 as we stated. And FHF's distribution hours were stated incorrectly. The correct hours: noon on Tuesdays at 367 Lyell Avenue, 2 p.m. on Sundays at the Friends Meeting House, 84 Scio Street.
The publishers and editorial staff of City apologize to area non-profit organizations, FOODLINK, and our readers for these errors. Letters related to the article follow.
only a symptom'
Presently, I work for the regional food bank FOODLINK, which has been supplying resources, both food and funds, to the emergency food network for over 27 years. FOODLINK rescues and redistributes over 7 million pounds of food annually to a network of over 550 human service providers in a 10 county area --- namely, food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, Kids Cafes, day care centers, group homes, and senior centers. We are part of the national network of food banks of America's Second Harvest.
The February 18 article portrayed FHF efforts as something new and more effective than other programs in the community. In truth, FHF is one of over a hundred organizations of dedicated people who have contributed to the emergency food network that is vast, sophisticated, caring, and most definitely "real."
This network is built upon hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours, committed food donors, and community members who are dedicated to ensuring that all people have access to food within our community. This effort requires a coordinated foundation of effective services, reducing duplication, maintaining food safety, and addressing chronic dependence. The ultimate goal is to provide people with opportunities for dignity to make it on their own, not to rely on perpetual charity.
The volunteers and program workers of the 180 emergency food providers in this area work day in and day out to service the needs of our most vulnerable. They feed the hungry, find shelter for those without, care for the sick, educate our children, comfort the lonely, assist the differently abled, provide services to those battling mental illness, teach job skills to help people find work, support individuals fighting addiction, feed families suffering from the most recent job layoffs, and lend an ear to voices not generally heard. These thankless tasks are quite far from the posture of laziness mentioned in the article.
The emergency food network works because of its extreme diversity of programs to meet the length and level of needs of individuals. The effective partnership of public, private, non-profit, faith-based, and secular organizations creates a web of services that is exemplary. It is not a system of bureaucratic red tape and exclusion, but a network of responsible care that attempts to get to know the underlying reasons that brought a person to the food line in the first place.
We have much to be proud of, and yes, we have much work to do. People do fall through the cracks, resources are dwindling, programs are expected to do much more with much less, and some programs act in a separate and divisive manner. As a community, we cannot afford to work separately as times are more turbulent and social problems are more complicated to resolve. We do not need another emergency food cupboard; we need a comprehensive and coordinated approach to channel all of these great efforts into addressing community needs in a holistic manner.
Recent initiatives for coordination include the Community Standards adopted by dozens of human service agencies (download a copy from our website at www.foodlinkny.org). The Community Standards are guidelines created by community providers to define the basic efforts for an emergency provider in this community to practice good stewardship and effectively work with other member programs. The emergency network is close to finishing the newly updated Hunger and Homeless Service Guide that lists comprehensive services in our area. Newly launched on the FOODLINK website are electronic discussion boards and a community calendar for agencies to list their emergency services, trainings, and outreach efforts for easy access by referral agencies.
Hunger is only a symptom of a much greater problem in a person's life. It is only through partnership that we can collectively work for the better health of our community as a whole by addressing the root causes of hunger, not just offering temporary Band-Aids. Together we must work smarter to carve out the type of community we feel most proud to call home. We must not be divided but instead pool our collective resources, talents and histories to achieve what we cannot otherwise do alone. The answers may not be clear, but it is important to keep asking questions and to keep trying.
Anyone can give away free food. It is the notion of what you do after a person comes to your door that makes all the difference.
Jaime Wemett Saunders, vice president of operations, FOODLINK
other food cupboards'
Speaking rapidly during the interview, I made statements that I did not mean. Neither I nor anyone else within Friends Helping Friends feels that other food cupboards are lazy or that the food-cupboard system is corrupt. One of the greatest sources of support, inspiration, and encouragement for FHF has always been other food cupboards and human-service providers in Monroe County.
We enjoy the camaraderie we share with other human-service providers and look forward to being part of a unified team focused on utilizing community resources to eliminate hunger and waste in Monroe County.
Although Friends Helping Friends specializes in receiving and redistributing mass quantities of perishable groceries to low-income people, FHF's Community Food Distribution Program is one of the many programs in Monroe County that distribute free perishable and non-perishable groceries.
Furthermore, Friends Helping Friends does not feel that Lyell Avenue is bleak or war-torn or that any of our neighbors have run-down establishments. FHF feels that the Lyell Avenue community is a vibrant area that we are happy to work in. FHF looks forward to working with our many neighbors that have been in the area much longer than we have. Friends Helping Friends is in the process of installing a mural on the Lyell Avenue side of our location through funding from Citibank, the City of Rochester, and the Arts and Cultural Council to further beautify Lyell Avenue.
Regarding FHF actual and potential funders: The UPS Foundation donated $25,000; the Starbucks Foundation has not formally committed to funding Friends Helping Friends' fledgling "Express Yourself" Project. FHF hopes Starbucks will provide funding for its Express Yourself Project for less than $20,000 later in 2004.
Friends Helping Friends' Community Food Distribution program distributes groceries at noon on Tuesdays at 367 Lyell Avenue and at 2 p.m. Sundays at the Friends Meeting House, 84 Scio Street. A Community Food Distribution volunteer distributes numbers for a place in line starting at noon on Sundays; no number system is used on Tuesdays. People wishing to receiving free groceries can show up at these locations at the listed times; no identification is required; the CFDP encourages program recipients to bring their own bags.
Much needed donations can be sent to Friends Helping Friends, PO Box 39618, Rochester 14604; make checks payable to Friends Helping Friends. Contact Friends Helping Friends at (585) 254-5490, fax: (585) 254-9218, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew Stankevich, program director, Friends Helping Friends
Editor's note: The description of Lyell Avenue was our writer's, not Stankevich's.