Growing our own food at Penn Farm

10458843_10203264540965729_7957600534192743463_nBy Matt Talley, Produce Access Coordinator

For the second year in a row, the Food Bank of Delaware is partnering with Delaware Greenways to grow fresh, pesticide-free produce at Historic Penn Farm in New Castle!

Located on 112 acres of land off Frenchtown Road, Penn Farm is a fascinating remnant of Delaware’s early history. Named after its benefactor, William Penn, the parcel formed part of the area designated as the New Castle Common in 1701 to serve as a source of timber and pasturage for the local citizens. Over the course of the intervening centuries, tenant farmers have continuously leased the land from the Trustees of the Common, developing and improving the farm’s facilities, practicing animal husbandry, and cultivating a wide variety of crops.

In 2015, Historic Penn Farm continues to grow and evolve under the oversight of Delaware Greenways, with projects underway to renovate the infrastructure, improve soil quality and implement new community agriculture initiatives.  The organization envisions a sustainable, bio-diverse farm operating for the benefit of the community in order to inspire healthier lifestyles and better environmental stewardship.

10353025_10203264740170709_1075984040956546680_nDelaware Greenways first partnered with the Food Bank of Delaware in 2014 with the help of Farm Manager Becca Manning. The project began as a pilot to test the effectiveness of using commercial agricultural production methods to create a source of fresh produce for the Food Bank. This year, the program will expand to an area of approximately one third of an acre (14,400 square feet), planted with crops such as kale, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, Swiss chard, tomatoes and green beans. The fresh vegetables grown at Penn Farm will feed directly into the operations of the Food Bank, ultimately going to individuals and families at-risk for food insecurity through Children’s Nutrition Programs, the Senior Nutrition Program, the Community Supported Agriculture Program, the Mobile Pantry Program and a statewide network of 550 Hunger Relief Partners.

Volunteers are needed to help tend to the farm plot over the 2015 productive season!  No prior experience is necessary, but this opportunity requires volunteers willing to get their hands dirty working outside.  Shifts are contingent on variable weather and crop conditions, so volunteers should understand that the hours will be flexible and prone to be scheduled or cancelled on short notice.

Three volunteer shifts are available on Saturday, May 30 (9 a.m. – 12 noon) and Tuesday, June 2 (9 a.m. – 12 noon and 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.) To sign up, please click here!

For more information, please contact me at mtalley@fbd.org or (302) 292-1305 ext. 249!

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Free meals are available to eligible children’s sites this summer

DSC_0027compIt’ hard to believe, but the school year is drawing to a close. When the school year ends, access to healthy meals also ends for many children and teenagers. The Food Bank of Delaware encourages community partners to help serve free meals to children in need through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

According to the latest KIDS Count Fact Book, 22.1 percent of Delaware children live in poverty. Despite this percentage, only 21 percent of children who participate in nutrition programs during the school year participate in the free summer program (Share Our Strength).

Beginning June 15, 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.

If a site is located in a needy area (where 50 percent or more of the children residing in the area are eligible for free or reduced-prices school meals) and meals are made available to all children in the area on a first-come, first-serve basis, these sites are considered open and available to all children in the community.

“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.”

The Food Bank of Delaware encourages all eligible organizations and neighborhoods to get involved this summer to help alleviate childhood hunger.

Last year, the state of Delaware distributed more than 780,000 meals to children.

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 interested in serving free meals may contact Kirsten Gooden, Children’s Nutrition Coordinator at (302) 444-8129 or kgooden@fbd.org. More information can also be found by clicking here.

The Summer Food Program is a federal program of the Food and Nutrition Services, United States Department of Agriculture. This program provides all children 18 years of age and under with the same free meal in accordance with a menu approved by the state agency regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800)795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TTY). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Karl Jorgenson

By Lynda Pusey, Fund Development Specialist

Last year we received more than 15,000 volunteer visits! We can’t do what we do without a dedicated team of volunteers!

Karl Jorgenson has been volunteering at the Food Bank of Delaware for more than two years and spends approximately six hours each week helping out at the Newark warehouse. He started volunteering in the kitchen and moved into the volunteer room. He loves the variety of work in the volunteer room and meeting new people.

Karl said he wanted to volunteer to help others but realized he is also getting something back. Since retiring he missed being around people each day and volunteering has helped fill that need for camaraderie. He encourages others to come in and volunteer, “Don’t think too much, just try it, it’s not hard and you meet good people while you are helping people.”

Food Bank of Delaware volunteers, like Karl, assist with a variety of tasks, including sorting nonperishable food donations, bagging produce, stocking shopping shelves, packing meal boxes and bags, helping to prepare and pack meals for the children’s nutrition program and much more.

With the school year drawing to a close, volunteers will be needed to help prepare and pack meals for our Summer Nutrition Program! Last summer, thanks to volunteers, we distributed more than 192,000 meals to children at risk of summertime hunger!

Summer meal packing will begin on Friday, June 12! To view available shifts and to sign up, visit http://www.fbd.volunteerhub.com.

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Senior expresses gratitude for monthly food box

WinnieBy Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

Usually, but not always, when the Food Bank of Delaware hosts a food distribution, those receiving the boxes will express gratitude. Most of the time, it’s a simple thank you.

It’s a rare occasion, though, when someone takes time to call us with grateful details.

Winnie Cooper of Smyrna is one of those rare callers who took the time to express her appreciation.

A retiree and a resident of Commerce Square, Ms. Cooper said she learned about the program through Deborah Freeman, her development manager, who was able to recruit a minimum of 10 residents to participate.

“I’m really pleased, so happy with this program,” she said.

The program is the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), is a monthly food distribution for seniors over the age of 60. Seniors receiving the boxes must be Delaware residents and meet income guidelines.

A community volunteer herself, Ms. Cooper is no stranger to the Food Bank’s mission.

“I used to help with the Share program, so I went to Newark to see the source. Fresh fruit, meat, vegetables, cereal, it’s such a help. I really enjoy the newsletter and the recipes,” she said.

Each box contains a couple of recipes plus some exercise tips, something Ms. Cooper also finds quite helpful.

“It’s just little things to keep us moving, to get seniors going,” she added.

She especially enjoys the variety of wholesome, hearty food.

“It’s nutritious foods, very balanced. I don’t enjoy cooking, but I like the simplicity of the recipes. I try them, and if you save them, you can build a scrapbook,” Ms. Cooper said.

“I don’t have a lot of time, so I just pick one from each (food group) column. I love the way it’s set up, very thoughtful and convenient.”

“It’s so good. The cheese is wonderful because it melts in the microwave.”

So, after receiving her box Ms. Cooper felt as though picking up the phone and making a call was the right thing to do.

“I had to say thank you. It’s just a wonderful service. It’s something good, and I felt I had to tell them (Food Bank of Delaware.) It’s wonderful, and I tell others to send a positive feedback as well.”

Last year, the Food Bank of Delaware distributed 28,518 meal boxes to senior citizens.

To learn more about the CSFP program, visit http://www.fbd.org/program/senior-nutrition/.

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Senior health fair termed success; more than 200 attendees

By Gwen Guerke, Communications CoordinatorIMG_1122

The Food Bank of Delaware’s first, but certainly not last, Health Fair could be described as a huge success, since more than 200 people came out to the Milford branch for health screenings and education related to health and a healthy lifestyle.

Melissa Holochwost, Senior Nutrition and Mobile Pantry Coordinator at the Food Bank of Delaware, was pleased with the response, since 182 of those attending qualified to be served with food, including meat and fresh fruits and vegetables.

“I really couldn’t ask for anything more. The vendors said they were pleased, and the people I talked to said they learned things they didn’t know,” she said.

“We wanted to make it fun and relaxing, and we want seniors to feel like it is OK to ask for assistance.”

Linda Booth Rogers, DCVA, volunteer services coordinator for Volunteer Delaware 50+, said she was pleased with the turnout and the opportunity to talk with people.

“The fair was well attended by individuals in the community. It was wise to have it the same day the seniors picked up food, plus doing the bingo card to make sure each one visited our tables. It was clear that the population attending was in dire need of all the services provided by the many vendors,” she said.

IMG_1134Other vendors agreed.

Trisha Bentley, RN, MSN, a clinical educator with Bayhealth’s education department, staffed a table with two other nurses.

 “We did 28 Diabetes Paper Risk Assessments and handed out lab vouchers for patients to go to either Milford Memorial Hospital or Kent General Hospital outpatient lab for a free diabetes test. There were a significant number of patients who came by the table, but already had diabetes so didn’t take the risk assessment, but they took a wallet ID card and/or diabetes management information. I thought it was well organized, well attended, and I will definitely recommeIMG_1132nd doing it again,” she said.

Missy said the concept for the health fair was a natural offshoot of monthly senior cooking and nutrition classes offered at the Food Bank. The classes and health fair are supported through the generosity of the Palmer Home Foundation.

“From the mobile pantries and senior classes, I can see that seniors are interested in getting more education. They aren’t aware of the existing services,” she said.

“This was an opportunity for them to talk with experts, and for the most part, it was all I hoped it would be.”

For more information about the Food Bank of Delaware’s services for senior citizens, visit http://www.fbd.org/program/senior-nutrition/.

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CSA program provides fresh, local produce; sign up to benefit self, others

CSA june 2014Delaware’s summer growing season is almost here, and it’s time to sign up for the Community Support Agriculture (CSA) through the Food Bank of Delaware.

Though CSA is a relatively new concept, most people are aware that it’s an opportunity to buy shares of local produce that are boxed, and then picked up weekly throughout the growing season.

Starting in mid-June, participants in the Food Bank’s CSA will be able to pick up at a location close to their home: the Food Bank’s Newark warehouse (sponsor shares only), Wilmington Farmers’ Market at Cool Springs Park, Downtown Dover Farmers’ Market or the Food Bank’s Milford Branch.

The cost for a full share is $500 (with $100 tax deductible) or $250 for a half share ($50 tax deductible), and payment options are available by visiting www.fbd.org/program/csa. The program can also be pro-rated for those who sign up later in the season.

Contents for the Food Bank’s CSA program come from the historic Laurel Farmers’ Auction Market. Calvin Musser, manager, said the season starts in June with squash, cucumbers and peppers, with corn arriving in late June.

The CSA boxes also include fresh leafy vegetables, herbs, tomatoes, fruit and root vegetables as they are grown locally. Each full share is enough to feed a family of four for a week.

Barbara Brkovich, the Food Bank’s CSA Program Coordinator, describes this program as a “win, win, win” for everyone: local farmers, the shareholders and the community members. The Food Bank modified the conventional CSA model to assist families in need, allowing them to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from their local farmers’ markets.

Each Sponsor share allows the Food Bank of Delaware to subsidize 2.5 shares for families in need.

For families with limited incomes, half shares are available for $5/week, while full shares are $10 (a deposit is required to hold your spot). Shares can be paid using an EBT card or cash. Pick up is available weekly at the Wilmington Farmers’ Market at Cool Springs Park, the Downtown Dover Farmers’ Market or the Food Bank’s Milford Branch. Families also receive tokens to use at market vendors at the two farmers’ markets.

To learn more, please visit www.fbd.org/program/csa/ or contact Brkovich at, (302) 292-1305 ext 204 or bbrkovich@fbd.org.

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Food Bank tie-dye descends on Dover’s Legislative Hall

By Chad Robinson, Milford Branch Director

Last Wednesday, May 13, 2015 was a great day for the Food Bank of Delaware. Each year, the sea of tie-dye shirts descends on Legislative Hall in Dover to share information with our legislators about the important work done by the Food Bank and our partner agencies. In year’s past, this day included visits with legislators, speaking in a committee hearing, serving a lunch to legislators and staff and even being received in each chamber with a concurrent resolution. Each of those has been worthwhile, but this year was different.

Early in the morning on Wednesday, a caravan of Food Bank trucks left from our Newark and Milford warehouses bound for Dover. All of these trucks contained products and supplies necessary to complete a packing event on Legislative Mall. After weeks of work obtaining the necessary paperwork and approvals, the day had arrived for us to complete the job. Our mission was to create 5,200 backpacks (one entire week’s worth) during our five-hour packing event on the Mall.   As the trucks arrived in Milford and product was unloaded, it seemed like the task might be too large. Pallets and pallets came off the truck and were moved into the appropriate locations to set up packing lines.

Prior to the end, state employees across Dover were alerted that we would be completing this job. Thanks to the help of Governor Markell’s office and the Office of Management and Budget, e-mails were sent to all state employees asking them to come out and help us ensure that we could provide these vitally important backpacks to kids across our state. The Food Bank of Delaware also reached out to volunteer groups to assist. Among the volunteer groups we solicited, we had more than 40 representatives from Dover Air Force Base, 20-plus from Chesapeake Utilities, as well as others from Kids First Academy and Volunteer Delaware 50+. Lyndsay Humphreys, Volunteer Coordinator, said “it was great to see so many volunteers, especially so many men and women that serve our country from the Air Force Base, come out to help ensure that we got these backpacks completed.” She continued, “I was so happy the Governor helped to kick it off, that legislators joined in and that state employees stepped up to the plate to feed children.”

Amidst all the business of volunteers moving about, we also served lunch prepared by our culinary students. Volunteers, legislators, state employees and staff dined on pulled chicken and pulled pork sliders, grilled vegetables and coleslaw. The food was amazing and enjoyed by all. By the end of the day, we anticipate that more than 150 volunteers came out to help pack backpacks, and to make it even better, the job was fully completed by 3:00 PM. That’s right – 5,200 backpacks packed in less than three hours!

The day also included many Food Bank of Delaware staff being able to meet with their state legislators to share our important work. Patricia Beebe, our President and CEO was also received on the floor of each chamber and asked to give comments. In her remarks, she praised the efforts we are making to train students in our culinary program, as well as highlighting the important work we are doing to feed children across our state. The text of the resolution can be found here.

We would like to thank all of those came out to assist in making this event possible. This proved to be a great way to share our message in a tangible form with legislators. Across this state, children are hungry and I am so glad that we put effort into this event!

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