Category Archives: Children's Nutrition

Lana the Iguana hits the road this summer teaching healthy eating

By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

We all know that kids learn through play, so what better way to reinforce healthy food choices than through some fun and games?

That’s where Lana comes in.

Lana the Iguana, perceived as a puppet by grownups, visits pre-schoolers in child care settings to talk about eating fruits and vegetables every day. Lana, of course, is accompanied by her own adult, one of the members of the Food Bank of Delaware’s SNAP-education team, when she goes on the road.

On Thursday morning, Lana and Laura, a Summer Nutrition Educator working out of the Milford branch, crossed a busy Airport Road to visit pre-schoolers at the Greater Milford Boys & Girls Club.

These boys and girls loved Lana and had no clue that her name was an acronym for Learning About Nutrition through Activities. They didn’t care because Lana and Miss Laura made the half-hour activity playful and interactive.

Kids learned about planting seeds, watering gardens and harvesting carrots. They talked about which vegetables they liked and which ones they didn’t care for.

The message was visual, interactive and inclusive, so that at the end of the program, each child got to take home a booklet and then had an opportunity to give Lana a hug before she left for another gig.

To schedule this program, and other age-appropriate SNAP classes, contact Leah Brown at or (302) 292-1305, ext. 210 in New Castle County or Asia Thurston at (302) 393-2013 or in Kent and Sussex Counties.

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A visit to our nation’s capital to advocate for the Summer Food Service Program

By Charlotte McGarry, Programs Director

Wow! What an amazing day! Yesterday I had the honor and privilege to speak before Senate staff at a briefing to educate lawmakers about the Summer Food Service Program. This educational opportunity was important as lawmakers begin to discuss the Summer Meals Act of 2014. As I departed the Wilmington train station en route to our nation’s capital, I was feeling excited, but extremely nervous. This was my first time speaking to national leaders about a program that helps so many children in our country during the summer months.

Feeding America and Share Our Strength invited the Food Bank of Delaware to speak given our long history and success with the program. Since 2002, we, along with our partners and volunteers, have provided millions of meals to children at risk of hunger in our state.

During my 10-minute talk I spoke about the need, challenges and successes of the program from the perspective of a sponsor. As a sponsor,  we are responsible for locating and recruiting meal sites, hiring, training and supervising staff and volunteers, arranging meal preparation and delivery, monitoring sites, and preparing claims for meal cost reimbursement from USDA.

Yesterday’s presentation was intended to show members of Congress that it’s time to make adjustments to Summer Food Service Program processes developed in the 60s and 70s.  As we all know, families’ needs and dynamics have significantly changed since then. It’s time to change the processes in which we serve children summer meals.

In Delaware only 20 percent of children who receive free or reduced-price meals at school participate in the Summer Food Service Program. Participation is not only low in Delaware, but on a national level. Lack of transportation and general awareness are two major barriers that hinder participation.

In order to reach more children, USDA has funded several demonstration grants to try alternative ways to provide meals. The Food Bank of Delaware, along with the Delaware Department of Education successfully managed one of these projects.

The Grab and Go alternative service method was so successful that we were able receive three years of generous funding from Our Family Foundation.  During this second year of private funding and fourth year of the program our staff is faced with the sad truth that the need for this style of meal service outweighs the funds.

We urge Congress to support their constituents by instituting the changes necessary for children throughout our nation to have the opportunity to participate in Grab and Go and other innovative meal delivery programs.

To learn more about the Summer Meals Act of 2014, please click here.

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Grab and Go summer meal program at High Point Mobile Home Park

By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

It didn’t matter that the thermometer registered at least 90 degrees and the heat index was 101.

Gaij Copes was ready to lend a hand at the Food Bank of Delaware’s Grab and Go program in his neighborhood.

Gaij, age 12, will enter the 7th grade at W.T. Chipman Middle School in Harrington this fall, but he’s no stranger to volunteering.

Missy Holochwost, Senior Nutrition Coordinator/Mobile Pantry Coordinator for the Food Bank of Delaware, is his mother.

The Summer Grab and Go Program complements the Food Bank’s existing nutrition services to reach an underserved population of children who are unable to access our Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) at traditional distribution sites.

Providing adequate nutrition during the 10-week summer vacation is a challenge as these children scatter throughout the community with limited or no access to summer nutrition programs.

Children who reside in rural or isolated settings are unable to benefit from the meals provided at traditional SFSP meal distribution sites.

Such is the case at High Point Mobile Home Park, a community of 406 homes located adjacent to the state’s major north-south highway, but not within safe walking distance of a school or church.

So five days a week, Gaij rides his bike to meet the Food Bank van where he helps the driver unload coolers and checks off those who are enrolled in the program as they pick up breakfast, lunch and beverages.

Because of his mother’s work, Gaij is familiar with the Food Bank’s mission.

“I like helping people,” he said, adding that he also assisted in the sign-up process by delivering flyers with enrollment information door to door.

As a result, at High Point, there are 27 signed up and a waiting list of 10.

Bob, the site manager at High Point, praised the Grab and Go program.

“I like the program, and I’m glad people are talking advantage. It’s running smooth, and for me, it’s nothing extra,” he said.

The current program has been made possible by a 3-year, $300,000 grant provide by the Our Family Foundation.


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Grab and Go program starts on a high note

By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

I’m somewhat new to the Food Bank of Delaware. Having come on board in late August, I haven’t yet experienced a full year’s cycle. But I was warned. My co-workers told me that the Food Bank is really busy in the summer, and while it’s not officially summer by the calendar, our summer season has begun.

School’s out, so the Food Bank steps in to meet the nutritional needs of children in their own neighborhoods.

Over the past week and a half, I attended the launch of the Grab and Go Program in three neighborhoods located in Bridgeville, Frederica and Millsboro.

The program complements our existing nutrition services to reach an underserved population of children who are unable to access our Summer Nutrition Program (Summer Food Service Program – SFSP) through traditional distribution sites.

Providing adequate nutrition during the 10-week summer vacation is a challenge as these children scatter throughout the community with limited or no access to summer nutrition programs.

Children who reside in rural or isolated settings are sometimes unable to benefit from the meals provided at traditional SFSP meal distribution sites.

The meals, breakfast and lunch, will be delivered to the main office of low-income housing units, apartment buildings and mobile home parks in southern New Castle County, Kent County and Sussex County, to be distributed for offsite consumption.

The current program has been made possible by a three-year, $300,000 grant provide by the Our Family Foundation.

That being said, the Food Bank staff launched the program by offering these same children a good time as well. While parents or a guardian checked in to confirm the child’s registration, the kids could play.

In fact, my job was. . . face painter! How much fun is that? Best of all, the children seemed to enjoy having their faces decorated with colorful flowers or footballs or an amateur rendering of a super hero. After waiting their turns, some kids even came back to my table for an additional painted tattoo on their arm.

In addition to face paint, we brought hula hoops, big balls to toss into plastic barrels, drew a hopscotch game on the sidewalk and encouraged the kids to join us.

When the registration was confirmed, parents received their child’s first day of meals in a reusable insulated tote bag so that refrigerated beverages made it home at the proper temperature.

I’ll be revisiting some of these sites throughout the summer to see how this program is going. Hopefully, it’s a huge success!

Check out some pictures from our recent launch in Millsboro!


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Grab and Go kick off at Elizabeth Cornish Landing

By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

Thanks to a very generous grant from the Our Family Foundation, we are able to continue to grow our Summer Grab and Go meal program for kids this year.

On Monday, the first program got under way on a warm and humid morning in the Elizabeth Cornish neighborhood just north of Bridgeville.

The Summer Grab and Go Program complements our existing nutrition services to reach an under-served population of children who are unable to access our Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) at traditional distribution sites.

This is my first summer at the Food Bank of Delaware, so I didn’t know what to expect from this Monday assignment.

My job, if you want to call it that, was to help with the face-painting. In addition to face painting, kids ran through an obstacle course, collected prizes by playing assorted games, hula hooped, jump roped and more!

The kids we met were delightful and seemed to enjoy our visit!

Let’s say the painting itself was at times a bit challenging. No simple hearts and flowers for these girls. Some requested flags from their native countries, sometimes incorporating the flag’s colors and patterns into a heart or butterfly. Glitter and faux gemstones were popular enhancements to the intricate pink and purple designs on their cheeks.

Some even returned for more paint on their arms or the back of their hands.

But the real focus of the day was meeting the challenge of feeding hungry children.

The 10-week Grab and Go initiative reaches out to children with limited access to summer feeding programs, primarily children who live in a rural area.

While Elizabeth Cornish is a neighborhood, it’s a small one, and it’s situated adjacent to a major highway outside the corporate limits of a town. The residents could not walk or bike safely into town.

The current program has been made possible by a three-year, $300,000 grant provide by the Our Family Foundation.

In addition to fun and games for kids, each child received a free summer meal and parents had the opportunity to visit our mobile pantry, staffed by students from The Culinary School at our Milford Branch. After a cooking demonstration from our Community Nutrition Educator Asia Thurston, families chose up to 100 pounds of food from our pantry on wheels.

In order to meet the people we serve, we will be visiting more neighborhoods in the upcoming week.

Need free summer meals? Call 2-1-1! To learn more about our Summer Nutrition Program, please click here.

Check out some pictures from Monday’s event!


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Serving summer meals at Lingo Apartments in Long Neck

By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

Summer time and the living is easy . . . or so the song lyrics go, but for some children a summer vacation from school creates food insecurity.

With summer vacation just around the corner, the Food Bank of Delaware’s Summer Food Service Program fills a much-needed void at sites up and down the state.

Volunteer Carol Feeley manages the program at Lingo Apartments in Long Neck.

Mrs. Feely is an active member of the Auxiliary of the American Legion Post 28 in Millsboro.

A recent retiree and chairperson of the community service committee, Mrs. Feeley and other auxiliary members help out during the summer months from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the complex’s community room.

Every day in the summer, about 15 elementary school children show up for lunch. Some will stay for games or to chat with the volunteers.

“The kids are fun. They are nice children,” she said.

Mrs. Feely explains that assisting with this program meets one of the auxiliary’s mission of service; the organization became involved four years ago.

“Our goal is service to veterans, military families and their children in the community. We know that one child is a grandchild of our members. We’re serving veterans through their family members,” she said.

For the volunteers, the service is uncomplicated: one or two assist each day with setting up, serving and wiping down the tables. Food Bank of Delaware volunteers pack the meals back at the Milford Branch and a driver delivers right to the apartment complex.

“It’s really simple. By one o’clock, they’re gone and we’re cleaned up,” Mrs. Feeley added.

The program, funded by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and administered by the state Department of Education, provides meals to low-income children who don’t have access to free and reduced-price school meals during the summer months.

Last summer, the Food Bank of Delaware delivered 150,000 children’s meals. This year the Food Bank expects to deliver more than 200,000.

As with other Food Bank of Delaware programs, volunteers like Mrs. Feeley and the American Legion Post 28 Auxiliary are the key to meeting the needs of Delawareans having difficulties putting meals on the table.

Volunteers can sign up to assist with the Summer Food Service Program at

Sites wishing to receive free meals from the Food Bank of Delaware may contact Dan Jackson, Hunger Relief Coordinator, at (302) 444-8128 or

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Summer volunteers needed

By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

Volunteers are needed at the Food Bank of Delaware’s Newark and Milford facilities to help assemble and pack meals for children enrolled in various summer programs.

Sign up is easy and can be done online. To volunteer to help with the Summer Food Service Program, members of the community may visit and sign up for a shift during the months of June (starting June 13), July or August (program ends in the middle of the month).

“Our volunteers are so important to us at the Food Bank of Delaware, and obviously to children throughout the state,” said our President and CEO Patricia Beebe.

“Nutritious meals that are also appealing to kids are delivered to child-care facilities, children’s programs, summer camps, faith-based organizations, neighborhoods and more. For children in need, these meals are essential to their health and success,” she added.

No experience is necessary, but volunteers should be able to stand for extended periods of time. Shifts are operated throughout the day Monday through Friday and some occasional weeknights and weekends.

The Summer Food Service Program, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture and administered by the Delaware Department of Education, provides breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks to low-income children in the summer when access to free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch meal programs are not available.

To help bridge the nutrition gap during the summer months, the Food Bank provides these nutritious meals for sites that feed hungry children.

This summer, the Food Bank of Delaware will deliver more than 200,000 meals to children during the 10-week program. To learn more about becoming a children’s nutrition site, contact Dan Jackson, Hunger Relief Coordinator at (302) 444-8128 or

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Food Bank of Delaware, Delaware Department of Education release Breakfast First, a statewide school breakfast report

Educators and anti-hunger advocates gathered yesterday afternoon at Highlands Elementary School for the release of the Food Bank of Delaware and Delaware Department of Education’s Breakfast First, a Statewide School Breakfast Report.

The report identifies that only 52.1 percent of Delaware’s children who receive free or reduced-price lunch also participate in school breakfast programs at their school.

In Delaware, children experience food insecurity in more than one in four households. With just more than half of eligible children receiving breakfast at school, tens of thousands of children who could benefit from a healthy start instead reach their school desks with empty stomachs.

“Guided by innovative and compassionate superintendents, principals, teachers, custodians and nutrition staff, schools throughout Delaware are rising to the challenge through a simple, yet effective strategy: moving breakfast into the classroom,” said Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe. “We know that breakfast in the classroom works. Seaford Middle School has increased breakfast participation by 481 percent just by serving breakfast to all in the classroom.”

The Red Clay Consolidated School District has embraced increasing breakfast accessibility by implementing a Grab and Go model where children “grab” their breakfast in the cafeteria and head to class to eat and receive instructional time.

“The reality is some of our children leave school and will not have another meal until they come back the next morning,” said Red Clay Superintendent Mervin Dougherty. “There are too many obstacles for our children today. When our kids don’t have to worry about things we take advantage of, they excel.”

Highlands Elementary Principal Robert Farr shared a story to explain why school nutrition programs are so important, “One day a student was misbehaving. I asked him to come to my office. I sat him and down and asked him, ‘why do you come to school?’ The little boy replied, ‘I come to school to eat. We don’t have any food to eat.’ This reminded me how important it is that our kids have nutritious meals here at school.”

The Delaware Department of Education and the Delaware State Teachers Association support increasing access to school breakfast for children.

“A whole school buy-in leads to success for breakfast,” advised Aimee Beam, Education Associate, School Nutrition Programs for the Delaware Department of Education. “Valid research shows that school meals have a significant impact on student performance. Kids who eat breakfast have higher test scores, decreased visits to the nurse and fewer behavioral issues.”

“Educators may be leery about breakfast in the classroom, but anecdotal evidence shows that it’s virtually mess free and increases instruction time,” said Delaware State Teachers Association President Frederika Jenner. “Breakfast is more than just the most important meal; it’s the gateway to school success.”

The report delves into school and district-level data to highlight success, as well as identifies common barriers and opportunities for improvement. It shares best practices from successful schools, including Wilbur Elementary School in the Colonial School District and Seaford Middle School in the Seaford School District.

Dan Reyes, Coordinator of the Food Bank of Delaware’s Coalition to End Hunger and co-author of the report, encouraged attendees to use the report as an advocacy tool. “Review the report and identify schools where improvement is needed,” he said. “Encourage educators to take the steps needed to make breakfast free and accessible to all children.”

To read the report in its entirety, visit

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Food Bank of Delaware to serve free meals to childrens’ sites this summer

By Natosha Bratcher, Communications Intern

When the school year draws to a close for the summer, so does lunch for many young children in Delaware. With the end of the school year quickly approaching and summer vacation following very closely behind, the Food Bank of Delaware is encouraging community partners to help serve free meals to children in need through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

Beginning June 16, the Food Bank, with help from thousands of volunteers, will prepare and distribute free meals to qualified sites throughout the state. Sites include faith-based organizations, summer camps, sports camps and other centers where children congregate during the summer months.

Neighborhoods and apartment complexes are also qualified to serve free meals through the program. To host a neighborhood program, an adult must contact the food bank for an application to determine eligibility, attend a training session and submit weekly paperwork.

To qualify for free meals, sites must operate in low-income areas where at least half of the children (ages three to 18 years of age) are eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program. Meals are served seven days a week and there are no fees associated with the program.

“When school is no longer is session, many Delaware school-aged children lose their major food source for the day,” said Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe. “With the help of the community and our team, we can ensure that at-risk children receive proper nutrition during the summer months.”

Unfortunately only a small percentage of eligible children access these free meals during the summer. The Food Bank of Delaware encourages all eligible organizations and neighborhoods to get involved this summer to help alleviate childhood hunger.

Last year, the Food Bank of Delaware distributed more than 150,000 meals through SFSP, and Beebe hopes that this number will increase in the 2014 summer season.

Nan Ciuffetelli, the executive director of the Cab Calloway Summer School of Arts, utilized the Summer Food Service Program last summer, “The food bank’s meal program is a great addition to what we accomplish. Our students take part in a free breakfast and lunch program during the school year, so it is essential that we continue this during the summer.”

On the menu, participating children can expect to find healthy, kid-friendly foods including cereal and milk, bagels, soy butter and jelly, turkey and cheese, apples, nectarines, celery sticks, yogurt and more.

SFSP is a federally-funded program operated nationally by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and locally by the Delaware Department of Education.

Sites in New Castle and Sussex counties interested in serving free meals may contact Dan Jackson, Hunger Relief Coordinator at (302) 444-8128 or Sites in Kent County may contact the Department of Education at (302) 735-4060.


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LANA the Iguana

IMG_6919Meet LANA (Learning about Nutrition through Activities) the Iguana, the newest member of the Food Bank’s Nutrition Education team! Lana is a loveable iguana who only eats fruits and vegetables! Yesterday she accompanied Alina Wade, our Community Nutrition Educator, on a visit to the Absalom Jones Head Start program for preschool-aged children. Lana and Alina visited four classes yesterday!

Lana is no stranger to the kids at Absalom Jones! She was greeted with lots of hugs and kisses, as yesterday was her third visit to program.  The cute little iguana loves fruits and vegetables and shares her enthusiasm for healthy eating with the children!

LANA the Iguana was developed by the Minnesota Department of Health to help children learn to taste, eat and enjoy more fruits and vegetables. The goal of the LANA Preschool Program is to help young children eat more fruits and vegetables each day to promote good health, healthy weight and reduced risk of chronic disease

Yesterday, children were introduced to the apricot. But before they started, a brief review of last week’s featured vegetable, broccoli! Last week, the children had a chance to make their own miniature broccoli forrest by standing broccoli florets up in a cup of dip. Reviews were mixed on the broccoli sample they tasted, but one preschooler shared with the group that while she doesn’t like broccoli, she does like horses!

Each session is only 30 minutes long to keep the children engaged and focused. Yesterday Alina read, Lana Plays a Trick on Tenzin. After the story, children were asked if they knew about the apricot. Alina explained that apricots grow on trees. To show where their food comes from, the group played “pin the apricot on the tree.” The children lined up, closed their eyes and did their best to get the apricot on the tree! Before long it was time to say goodbye to Lana and Alina. Lana departed to a sea of preschool hugs and kisses!

Next week when Lana and Alina visit they will continue to learn about apricots. Using dried apricots pretzel rods and raisins, the children will create apricot “bugs!”

To learn more about Lana the Iguana, please contact Alina Wade, Community Nutrition Educator, at or (302) 292-1305 ext 210.

Check out some pictures from yesterday’s visit with Lana!

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