Food Bank of Delaware looks to expand Milford branch
The Food Bank of Delaware, which distributes between 7 million and 10 million pounds of food and grocery products each year, is looking to expand its reach in the Sussex County area. The Milford branch, which is one of the Food Bank’s two facilities, will soon double in size.
“We’re about 8,000 square feet right now, and we plan to double the size of the current facility,” explained Kim Kostes, communications director for the Food Bank of Delaware.
Kostes said the expansion is a needed one, as there have been increases in food assistance demands in the two counties it serves.
“We’ve definitely outgrown our facility in Milford,” she said. “We have seen significant increases for food assistance demands in Kent and Sussex counties,” she said. “There’s more rural landscaping, so transportation is limited. There’s not the type of transportation infrastructure that you may see in New Castle County.”
The $2.7 million expansion will add a kitchen, bistro and volunteer room to the current facility, allowing the Food Bank to expand on programs in the southern part of the state.
“It’ll allow us to feed more people, which is really important. We put a strong emphasis on feeding children. What we’ve also seen is a lot of increase in demand for our children’s nutrition program, our Backpack Program. It sends backpacks full of food home with the kids over the weekend. We’ve had a lot more sites in Kent and Sussex counties sign on to distribute those to kids in need.
“Through the expansion, we’ll be able to provide more meals to kids. We anticipate we’ll be able to increase our total food production for kids by 25 percent.”
Kostes said the Food Bank is looking to solve adult hunger, as well, by looking beyond food for today and expanding The Culinary School, a 14-week program that teaches students professional culinary training skills, and helps students realize personal and professional goals.
“We provide 14 weeks of training to our students, which includes 12 weeks in the classroom and two weeks in paid internships,” explained Kostes. “With the internships, we partner with different food-service companies throughout the state, so maybe a restaurant or a corporate cafeteria, and provide them with the intern so they can have a test run of the employee to see if they’re someone they want to employ later. Oftentimes, the internship will lead to employment — part-time or full time employment.”
The program, which was started in 2002, has graduated more than 240 students, and through the expansion will soon be able to provide training for an additional 45 students each year.
Through the expansion, the Senior Nutrition Program will also grow, allowing emergency meal boxes to be prepared in the Milford branch.
“We provide low-income seniors with a free monthly food box. Volunteers will assist with building all of those boxes. Currently, we build all of the boxes in Newark,” she said. “We also have a mobile meals program, and we also build emergency meal boxes for that, as well.
“We have a lot of people that want to volunteer at our Milford facility, but unfortunately the volunteers currently work in the center aisles of the warehouse,” Kostes explained. “Here in Newark, we have an actual room dedicated just to volunteers, so we’re looking to build a similar room in Milford where all the volunteer activity will take place.”
Kostes said there has been a definite increase in food need in Kent and Sussex counties, and she hopes the expansion will help those in need.
“It certainly has grown,” she said. “Back in 2010, we released a study we conduct with Feeding America every four years, called the ‘Hunger of America Study,’ where we also study hunger in each of the 50 states.
“Before we did the study, we were serving a little under 90,000 Delawareans. When we released the study in 2010, we were serving close to 242,000 Delawareans. The number has tripled, and what we see is a lot of people who used to donate food, money or time, now need help themselves.”
The Food Bank of Delaware still has $1 million left to raise to pay for the expansion, but Kostes said the Board of Directors has decided to move ahead with the groundbreaking.
“We still do need to raise some money for it, but we have decided, with the approval of our board, to move ahead with our groundbreaking. July 18, our contractor is holding a mandatory pre-bid meeting at the Milford facility. In the next year, we’ll continue to look to the community for support to help raise the remaining money. But our board has also looked for other opportunities for funding, as well.”
For more information on the Food Bank of Delaware, or to donate, visit www.fbdfeedingourfuture.org. To learn how to receive food from the Food Bank, call the Delaware Helpline at 211.