Senior Cooking Class with Chef Tim

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By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

You’re never too old to learn something new, and the dozen Kent County senior citizens who participated in the Food Bank of Delaware’s Senior Cooking Classes on Thursday, March 26 in the afternoon demonstrated that learning can be fun . . . and tasty.

The ladies, along with one gentleman, joined Chef Instructor Tim Hunter in the classroom of the Food Bank’s Culinary School in Milford for an hour-long class/ demonstration.

Chef Hunter chose recipes that incorporated food items these senior might receive in their monthly box. All of these seniors qualify for the class funded through the Palmer Home Foundation grant by meeting USDA income guidelines; not all, however, receive a monthly box.

The theme of the day was to offer some creative and tasty ways to use leftover roast chicken or turkey. Each CFSP package includes fruits, vegetables, carbohydrate, protein (the chicken, for example), grains, and dairy.

These seniors also told Chef Hunter they wanted to learn how to correctly prepare wheat pasta, so he took the group into the kitchen to show them how long to cook the pasta and how to drain it was well.

“The key is to undercook or it gets mushy,” he said.

As for the examples and samples, Chef Hunter and the Milford Culinary School Class prepared a tasty salad using the whole wheat pasta, fresh herbs and some of the leftover chicken dressed with a home-made vinaigrette, chicken orzo soup based on a freshly prepared chicken stock using the carcass, and mini chicken pot pies.

Brittany, a student nutrition intern with the Food Bank, handed out samples as chef talked about the ease of preparation, adding some helpful cooking hints.

These senior unanimously agreed the food was delicious as they peppered him with questions, mostly asking how they could fine-tune the recipes to match their personal tastes.

“It’s up to you, as far as seasonings,” Chef Hunter said, suggesting they tie in fresh herbs as they become available.

The students were all smiles as they left because they each received about 100 pounds of food, including a frozen chicken and turkey.

If you are a senior citizen or know one in need of monthly food assistance, please contact Missy Holochwost, Senior Nutrition Coordinator, at (302) 444-8129 or mholochwost@fbd.org.

If you are a senior citizen in need of monthly food assistance, please contact Missy Holochwost, Senior Nutrition Coordinator, at (302) 444-8129 or mholochwost@fbd.org.

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Backpacks are a hit at Reily Brown Elementary School

Barbara Smith, a Paraprofessional, at Reily Brown Elementary, helps with the school's weekly backpack distribution!

Barbara Smith, a Paraprofessional, at Reily Brown Elementary, helps with the school’s weekly backpack distribution!

By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

More than half the students at W. Reily Brown Elementary School get a backpack full of weekend meals to take home with them each Friday.

Dr. Wendy Whitehurst, the school’s assistant principal, said the school on Dover’s south side, has been participating in the Food Bank of Delaware’s Backpack Program since 2010.

The food, she said, really makes a difference in the students’ lives.

“We realized that 77 percent of the 409 students live in poverty,” she said, so parents are offered an opportunity to enroll their children into the program.

Here’s how it works: At-risk children are identified by school personnel, and it’s called the Backpack Program because a plastic bag filled with nutritionally sound and kid-friendly food, enough for the weekend, are placed in a child’s backpack.

During the 2013-14 school year, 4,692 children in Delaware received weekend food through this backpack program at 125 sites state-wide.

At first, Reily Brown’s school administrators were a bit concerned that those students receiving the bag of food might be stigmatized.

Actually, it’s been the opposite: everyone wants to be a Backpack Buddy.

Each school in the program handles the distribution a bit differently, based on staffing and volunteers. Food Bank of Delaware trucks deliver the backpacks to each school every week. At Reily Brown, custodians place boxes next to the classroom door; the teachers indicate the amount by a sticky note placed outside the door.

“It’s really helped many of our students,” said Dr. Whitehurst.

“We have heard teachers say that it’s a blessing. It’s a necessity. We’re a 100 percent Title 1 program. If the parents feel they need it. We make sure they get it,” she added.

In addition, the school takes advantage of the Food Bank’s After-School Nutrition Program. Dr. Whitehurst said each Tuesday and Thursday students participate in a phonics/ reading program.

“They get a snack and a drink, and then they go to their lesson,” she said.

“They really look forward to it, and it’s appreciated.”

To learn more about the Backpack Program, visit http://www.fbd.org/program/children%E2%80%99s-nutrition-program/backpack-program/.

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J.G. Townsend Jr. & Company donates close to 60,000 pounds of frozen produce to Food Bank of Delaware

Pictured (left to right): Solomon Henry (Plant Manager), Chad Robinson (Milford Branch Director), Roger Townsend (Company Owner), Bill Lingo (Company Owner), John Lingo (Company Owner), Gene Bayard (Company Owner), Derrick Lingo (Company Owner) and Paul Townsend (Company Owner). Not pictured: Owner Bryce Lingo

Pictured (left to right): Solomon Henry (Plant Manager), Chad Robinson (Milford Branch Director), Roger Townsend (Company Owner), Bill Lingo (Company Owner), John Lingo (Company Owner), Gene Bayard (Company Owner), Derrick Lingo (Company Owner) and Paul Townsend (Company Owner). Not pictured: Owner Bryce Lingo

Remember Talley’s blog from a few weeks ago announcing a donation of 40,000 pounds of fresh, locally-grown produce from J.G. Towsend Jr. & Company? Well, we are excited to announce that the Georgetown company has donated an additional 19,000-plus pounds to us! This brings their total donation to close to 60,000 pounds of frozen black-eyed peas, green peas and beans!

The donation filled close to 6 Food Bank of Delaware trucks. The bulk produce will be individually-packaged as part of our new Produce Access Program. The program’s aim is to provide more fruits and vegetables to low-income Delawareans. This initiative shifts the organization towards a more proactive food sourcing strategy and commits additional resources to ensure a better, more consistent supply of produce.

Food Bank of Delaware volunteers will bag up the donated produce in to 6”x10” pouches. The bags are placed into coolers to ensure proper temperature control while they await the vacuum sealer. Once they are sealed, labels are affixed to the bags with information about the product, the food bank’s address and cooking instructions. Volunteers take the finished bags and pack them into cases before they are brought back into the freezer for temporary storage.

“Everyone at J.G. Townsend is once again excited to be able to partner with the Food Bank of Delaware,” said Owner Lloyd Richter. “We look forward to a long-lasting relationship in the fight against hunger in our state.”

“We are so thankful for J.G. Townsend Jr. & Company’s generosity,” said Food Bank of Delaware Milford Branch Director Chad Robinson. “The donation is our largest since launching our new Produce Access Program. We hope J.G. Townsend’s kindness will inspire other local growers and processors to assist with our efforts to alleviate hunger in the state.”

For more information about the Food Bank of Delaware’s new Produce Access Program, please contact Matt Talley, Produce Access Program Coordinator, at (302) 292-1305 ext 249 or mtalley@fbd.org.

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Kickin’ it with Calcium at Bancroft Elementary

Who doesn’t want strong bones and muscles? Fourth graders at Bancroft Elementary were certainly excited about the prospect of having strong bones and muscles from consuming more calcium! A group of 12 students participated in Community Nutrition Educator Alyssa Atanacio’s series of Kickin’ it with Calcium classes last month.

The three-part interactive class focuses on nutrition education activities and a physical activity demonstration to encourage children to increase their consumption of calcium and exercise.

Alyssa, one of our registered dieticians, started the class with a refresher from the last two classes. She asked the students a series of questions about the importance of calcium. For each question correct, the students received a milk mustache sticker. The student with the most mustache stickers by the end of the class got to pick the first prize at the end of class! Alyssa’s group remembered quite a bit about calcium from their last two sessions.

The first class in the series of three focuses on the role of calcium in the body, dairy and non-dairy sources of calcium, such as spinach, broccoli and almonds, the amount of dairy kids need, the role of Vitamin D and the importance of cardiovascular exercise. Special activities for session one include Simon Says using cardio exercises and a C is for Calcium worksheet where children identify foods containing calcium. Session two includes a review and the importance of strength exercises, such as sit-ups, push-ups and more!

Each class concludes with a special calcium-rich treat such as mozzarella cheese sticks, yogurt/yogurt parfaits or chocolate tofu mouse.

Session three’s special snack at Bancroft was a fruit smoothie served in a special Kickin’ it with Calcium cup, which they got to keep!

But before the kids got their special treat, they must be engaged throughout the session. To show the importance of flexibility, Alyssa led the students through a quick stretching and yoga routine. The kids were excited to show off their best tree and warrior poses!

At the end of the class, Alyssa poured the smoothies for each student. At first a few were apprehensive to taste their strawberry yogurt smoothie as first.

“This tastes sour,” said one student.

“I don’t think I’ll like it,” said another.

“You’ll like it,” Alyssa said encouragingly.

After some apprehension, slurping sounds started to fill the room; within minutes the cups were dry, and students were asking for seconds! One student even described the smoothie as “heavenly!”

To learn more about children’s nutrition education programs at the Food Bank of Delaware, please visit http://www.fbd.org/program/snap-education.

Check out some more pictures from Kickin’ it with Calcium at Bancroft!

 

 

 

 

 

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Entries for Coming Together Multimedia Creative Challenge due April 3

The Food Bank of Delaware and Brae’s Brown Bags’ are encouraging Delaware students to use their creativity to help spark community change. Entries for the first-ever Coming Together Multimedia Creative Challenge are due April 3.

Delaware students in grades 1-12 are able to submit posters, YouTube videos (students over the age of 13) and essays (5th-12th graders) focusing on food insecurity, food recovery/food waste and healthy eating.

Finalists’ entries will be on display at the Coming Together conference, Delaware’s first anti-hunger conference for both adults and children, on Monday, May 4.

Prizes will be given to the top three selections in each design theme category and in each age group. Age groups will be divided into elementary (1-4), middle school (5-8) and high school (9-12 grades). Each finalist will be awarded a prize, certificate and the honor of their entry being displayed at a statewide conference.

“I think want I want most out of the conference and this design challenge is for kids to think about what it really means to be hungry,” said 11-year-old Braeden Mannering, founder of Brae’s Brown Bags. “I want them to imagine how it feels and how we can fix it if we all work together. For me it is to help all people have a chance to eat healthy. I want kids to know they don’t need a cape to be a super hero. Sometimes you just need the right pen or colored pencil or just the right creative idea. I want to see the kids in Delaware, all ages, join forces to fight hunger.”

Mannering, along with a panel of community members, will be judging the entries based on originality, artistic merit and expression of the theme. Only one entry per student and each entry must be the work of only one student. Artist signatures or initials are only allowed on the back of the poster. Each entry must be accompanied by a signed release form.

“We are so thrilled to be partnering with Braeden. Braeden shows that regardless of age, we can all make a difference. We are hoping that other students will follow Braeden’s lead and work to make impactful change in our community.”

Complete rules for the Coming Together Multimedia Challenge can be found at http://www.fbd.org/comingtogethercontest/. Tickets for the May 4 conference are on sale. Adult tickets are $40 until April 17; tickets increase to $50 after the 17th. For more information about the conference, visit www.fbd.org/comingtogether.

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Introducing… the Produce Access Program (part 2)

Did you miss part one? Click here to read it!

By Matt Talley, Produce Access Coordinator

After my initial visit to J.G. Townsend Jr. & Co., I wasn’t quite sure exactly what the outcome would be for the Food Bank. Speaking with the frozen foods processor was one of my first attempts to cultivate a better relationship with some of the producers in Kent and Sussex Counties. The meeting in Georgetown went well – the company had made some donations to the Food Bank in the past, and they were curious to hear more about our plans for sourcing more Delaware-grown produce in the future.

Everyone knows that farmers are the ones who grow our food. But that’s only part of the story, and what I learned at J.G. Townsend gave me a lot of insight into how our food system works. You see, there’s a lot of history behind that packet of frozen vegetables that’s might be sitting in your freezer. Let’s take lima beans for an example, since that’s one of the products processed at Townsend’s facility:

A lima bean farmer probably has access to the equipment required to till the earth, plant rows of seeds, fertilize and irrigate those rows, and ensure that pests don’t completely eradicate the crop. But that same farmer may depend on another party when it comes time to actually harvest the lima beans and make them ready for market. Many farmers do not own the equipment required to harvest their crop, let alone to separate out all the leafy matter, stems and other field material picked up by the harvester. The crop then needs to be rinsed, packaged and distributed…lots of additional steps before the product is finished and ready for the market.

Due to these challenges, your typical lima bean farmer is likely to contract with a processor. This frees up the farmer to focus on farming and allows the processor to work with a number of different growers to source their raw materials – lima beans straight out of the fields! Now, there isn’t a very large window when lima beans are ready to harvest. For this reason, it’s easier to clean and freeze the beans while they’re still fresh, and then finish the process to package and distribute them after the peak harvest period. This gives the processor more time to finish producing a market-ready product when they’re not busy harvesting, cleaning, blanching and freezing the beans fresh off the field.

20150210_135610 web Here’s where things get really interesting…have you ever heard of a color sorter? No? Me either. Let’s back up a little bit. If you’ve ever had a home vegetable garden, then you’ve probably ended up with the occasional weird looking tomato, mutant strawberry or extra curly cucumber. While it doesn’t match what you would expect to find in the grocery store, there’s nothing really wrong with it. It’s still edible, it’s still nutritious, and it still tastes good.

Lima beans are the same way, but in terms of color. Sometimes they come out a little bit brownish or greyish looking. A color sorter is exactly what it sounds like – a large piece of equipment that sorts items based on very exact color specifications. Grocers don’t want to carry something that looks different, so the processing industry uses color sorting to ensure uniformity of appearance in their products.

But what happens to all the rest of it? Where do the slightly brown or grey lima beans go? That’s what I was hoping to capture, a stream of perfectly fresh, good-tasting and nutritious product that never hits the market because of a slight variation in color.

20150209_135902 webThe Food Bank had just purchased a vacuum sealer, and this would be the perfect test case! If the processing plant was able to donate just one or two totes, we could develop a process to repackage, vacuum seal and distribute them to families to need.

A couple of weeks after our initial meeting, I opened up my laptop and received an email that blew my mind. J.G. Townsend Jr. & Co. had conducted an inventory and wanted to donate 29 totes of black-eyed peas, green peas and lima beans. If you picture the blocks that make up the pyramids, you’ll get a rough idea of how big a tote of frozen vegetables is. Each one weighs about 1,400 pounds, so J.G. Townsend was contributing about 40,000 pounds of fresh, Delaware-grown produce to the fight against hunger!

The next morning, we sent the first of three trucks down to Georgetown to collect the donation. The totes were loaded into refrigerated box trucks to prevent the frozen vegetables from thawing out on the trip back to the Food Bank’s warehouse in Newark and then into a large commercial freezer to await the next step.20150120_150330 web

Each tote basically consists of a large cardboard box, lined with blue plastic on the inside and sitting on a wooden pallet. Since this product was never intended for market, it was never packaged. Instead, it sits loose inside the tote’s liner in bulk form. One at a time, these totes are taken to the makeshift production line in the Food Bank’s Volunteer Room, where volunteers bag up the contents in 6”x10” pouches. The bags are placed into coolers to ensure proper temperature control while they await the vacuum sealer. Once they are sealed, labels are affixed to the bags with information about the product, the Food Bank’s address and cooking instructions. Volunteers take the now finished bags and pack them into cases before they are brought back into the freezer for temporary storage.

This generous donation of produce will provide hungry Delawareans with nutritionally-rich, calorically- dense food to help them stretch their food budgets and keep their stomachs from going hungry. Unfortunately, fresh produce isn’t always easy to sell to low-income customers…even if it’s free. Nutrition education is essential to increase awareness of the health benefits associated with consuming fresh fruits and vegetables. To this end, the Food Bank’s Community Nutrition Educators seek to educate and encourage clients through onsite cooking demonstrations, handouts including recipes and preparation tips and other forms of nutritional guidance. Each package of frozen vegetables from this example will be distributed with a nutritional profile and recipes to help families to make the most out of what they receive.

20150210_135837 webIn a broad sense, programs such as the Food Bank’s Produce Access Program are necessary to not only improve access, but also to help stimulate demand for produce grown in Delaware among more Delawareans. By providing supporting educational resources along with access and availability, we can help lower the risks of diet-related health concerns such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. By working with partners such as the Delaware Department of Agriculture, the Delaware Farm Bureau and the counties’ Cooperative Extensions, we can help to create more economic opportunities for the agricultural community to sell their products within the state. And with the help of community efforts such as the Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition and The Food Trust’s Wilmington Cornerstore Initiative, we can change the landscape of our local food economy. After all, doesn’t it just stand to reason that fresh food should be eaten where it’s grown?

If you are a farmer or producer who would like to donate to the Food Bank or for more information about the Produce Access Program, please contact Matthew Talley at (302) 292-1305 ext 249 or mtalley@fbd.org.

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Introducing… The Produce Access Program

By Matt Talley, Produce Access Coordinator

“New CastleIMG_7835 County straddles I-95 and the Boston-Washington Corridor, which is the most densely populated and urbanized area of the country.” I was explaining our state’s unique geography to Bob Branham, a fellow food banker visiting Delaware from the Twin Cities. “Wilmington and the entire Delaware River Valley are basically part of the Greater Philadelphia Area,” I continued, “but once you cross over the C&D Canal you’re into farmland.”

Bob smiled wryly. He serves as the Director of the Produce Capture Institute (PCI), a peer learning initiative that helps food banks develop better relationships with the agricultural community. We were driving downstate on a sunny day in January to try to accomplish exactly that.

Most Delawareans are familiar with the geographical division between upper and lower Delaware –New Castle County is home to most of the state’s population and composed of mainly urban and suburban areas, and Kent and Sussex Counties are characterized primarily by agriculture. Despite the large amount of fresh food produced downstate, however, a large number of residents still suffer from insufficient access to fresh food. The question on our minds as Bob and I drove over the canal was, “What can we do to redirect some of that locally-grown produce to Delawareans in need?”

Last fall, when the Food Bank launched a new initiative to provide better more fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income households, I immediately jumped on board. Entitled the “Produce Access Program,” this initiative shifts the organization toward a more proactive food sourcing strategy and commits additional resources to ensure a better, more consistent supply of produce. As the Food Bank’s Produce Access Coordinator, my job to actively encourage farmers to donate produce as part of a mutually beneficial arrangement based on tax benefits, cost-sharing, spoilage reduction, and increased public awareness for Delaware farms.

That trip downstate with Bob was just one small step in an ongoing effort to reach out to stakeholders in the agricultural community, but it turned out to be a lucrative one. First, we stopped off at the Department of Agriculture in Camden to deliver a brief overview of the new plan. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee and Deputy Principal Assistant Holly Porter have been vital in their support of the Food Bank, and the Department plays an integral role to improve statewide distribution of agricultural products and ensure better access for all Delawareans.

Next, we met with watermelon producer and farm-to-school advocate Dave Marvel, a key partner and longtime hunger relief advocate of hunger relief who shared his insights from a farming perspective. Dave joined us as we continued to Georgetown to sit down with representatives from J.G. Townsend Jr. & Co., a frozen foods processor who has provided jobs in community for over half a century. Our hosts were polite and warm as we painted a picture of the Food Bank, described our goals and capabilities, discussed the company’s production process, and even offered a tour of the processing facility.

Our group felt optimistic as we pulled away from Race Street in Georgetown, but we were still unsure of exactly what the outcome would be from our meeting with the processors. Were they able to see the value in our proposal?

Any uncertainty, however, soon faded as J.G. Townsend Jr. & Co. contacted the Food Bank with a donation of approximately 40,000 pounds of black eyed peas, green peas and lima beans!

This generous donation is a powerful example of how the agricultural industry can help to fill a tremendous void by providing hungry Delawareans with a source of high-quality, nutritious and locally-grown fruits and vegetables. The nutritional benefits of increased access to fruits and vegetables significantly decrease the risk of diet-related diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Issues of produce access and availability will persist in our low-income communities, but these partnerships are vital to creating the conditions that will ultimately lead to success in the fight against hunger.

If you are a farmer or producer who would like to donate to the Food Bank or for more information about the Produce Access Program, please contact Matthew Talley at (302) 292-1305 ext.249 or mtalley@fbd.org.

Stay tuned for Part Two to learn how the Food Bank distributes 40,000 pounds of frozen vegetables…

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