Food Bank had busy 2013, aiming to end hunger in Delaware
It was a busy 2013 for the Food Bank of Delaware — especially in Sussex County.
“We had the grand opening of our expanded Milford branch,” said Kim Turner, communications director for the Food Bank of Delaware. “We doubled the size of the branch, and now have our full-sized kitchen to house our culinary school. We also have a volunteer room for members of the public to come in and do different volunteer activities.”
The Culinary School at the Food Bank provides job training to unemployed and underemployed individuals, offering hands-on training in basic and high-end kitchen skills, safe food handling and life skills.
“Looking ahead to the next year, we’re going to look to fill our culinary classes,” said Turner, noting that the Food Bank has approximately four graduating classes each year. “Back in December, we celebrated the first class from the Milford branch. At the graduation, 11 had graduated and five had been offered employment.”
The Culinary School runs Mondays through Fridays, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and late registration is available.
“Our second class started this week, and they’ll start the next 14 weeks with us. That includes a two-week internship with a local food-service company. Then we’ll help the students in jobs. And we’re continuing to recruit for future classes.”
In February, the Food Bank of Delaware was among five Feeding America food banks to receive funding from Giant Food for programs to alleviate childhood hunger. Giant has committed $300,000 over the next three years to the Food Bank’s summer Grab-and-Go meal program for children at risk of hunger.
Then, in March, the Food Bank launched its new mobile pantry.
“We received funding from Kraft Foods to purchase a beverage-style truck, which we use for our mobile pantry program,” said Turner, adding that, in July, Bank of America donated $50,000 to the program.
Turner said that, this winter, during the holiday food drives, 195,553 pounds of food was collected to help feed those in need.
Currently, the Food Bank is working on a winter giving campaign to continue to help those in need during the cold winter months.
“We’re looking to collect 100,000 pounds of food by Feb. 28, to help meet the increased demand for food assistance during the cold winter months. During the months of October, November and December, we have a large amount of drives coming in. Then, in January, February and March, those drives really decline. We’re hoping that people continue to host food drives during the winter months.
“Donations drop off after the holidays,” she emphasized. “It’s one of the reasons we’re holding the campaign. We want to build awareness that hunger exists all year long — not just during the holidays.”
The giving campaign is being conducted in conjunction with the Delaware Health and Social Services Coalition to End Hunger.
“We also want to build awareness of the resources that are available to those people who are in need. We’re trying to increase awareness of Delaware 2-1-1, which is the number people can call for different human services.”
This May, Turner said, the Food Bank of Delaware hopes to release a study it did in conjunction with Hunger in America that maps out the food needs within the state.
“The need has increased. We participate in a study every four years called Hunger in America. Right now, we’re engaging the number of people who are utilizing the SNAP program — food stamps. Several years ago, that number was about 70,000. Now it’s about 156,000 individuals.”
In 2013, the Food Bank of Delaware went to the various hunger-relief agencies in the state that receive food from the Food Bank and did a random sampling of clients, and then they interviewed those individuals.
“The research firm is currently compiling all the data, and then Feeding America will release it to us in the coming months,” she explained. “We’ll see where there are maybe areas where there might be ‘food deserts,’ where people do not have access to food; see if we have a larger homeless population, a larger senior population. Are we serving more children? We’ll take a look at that information and see whether we need to change any of our programs or add some.”
Turner said it was a busy year for the Food Bank of Delaware, but she hopes that, in 2014, the Food Bank will continue to be a resource for those in need.
“We certainly hope that people are able to find jobs that pay sustainable wages,” she added. “Our vision is a community free of hunger. So, ultimately, we would like for people to find jobs that will pay them a living wage, so that they are no longer in need of food service. But we hope to be able to continue to meet the needs of our community.”
For more information on the Food Bank of Delaware and its programs, visit www.fbd.org. To sign up for assistance programs, call the Delaware Helpline at 2-1-1.