Annual dinner showcases culinary students, thanks top supporters and friends

By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

It goes without saying that the Food Bank of Delaware’s Annual Dinner is regarded as a special evening. The event is our opportunity to honor and thank those who support our mission.

Thursday evening’s banquet at our Milford site exceeded any expectations. Tim Hunter, chef instructor, and his nine Culinary School students prepared and served a gourmet meal for our staff and guests. They who also had an opportunity to savor craft beers donated and served by our neighbors, Mispillion River Brewing. The menu, served at buffet stations, was paired with local beers.

Patricia Beebe, our President and CEO, lauded our top honorees of the year. They are: James Buford and Rich Simpson, Volunteers of the Year; The Harry K Foundation, Donor of the Year; Michael Haritos, Supporter of the Year; State Sen. Bryan Townsend, Legislator of the Year, Sussex Community Corrections Center, Partner of the Year.

We are extremely grateful for the time and talent they contribute to the Food Bank of Delaware, and over the next week, we will feature each honoree in a separate blog. Stay tuned!

During the week prior to the dinner, staff members received an email from Pat: tie dye shirts were mandatory for the occasion. Those of us who’ve been here for awhile know that’s code for “auspicious occasion.”

To set the tone for the evening, Pat took an opportunity before dinner to recognize all 60 members of the Food Bank’s staff, calling them by department up to the podium, to thank us for the hard work we’re doing and for our dedication to the people we serve.

After dinner, the evening got a bit emotional as Pat put aside her notes to praise the partnership between the Sussex Community Corrections’ Sussex Work Release Center, noting that the nine Culinary School students who prepared our dinner were associated with the center in Georgetown.

Guests could see that the students were proud of their accomplishments, that they respected Chef Hunter and “Miss Pat,” that the Culinary School made a big difference in their lives, that they were looking forward to internships, to the May 8 graduation ceremonies, and to meaningful employment opportunities.

The details of that story, and more, are left for another day.

For more information on how to volunteer and support the Food Bank of Delaware, visit

Check out photos from last night’s dinner!

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Filed under Volunteer, Events, The Culinary School, FBD Staff, Programs, Supporters, Workforce Development

Newest staff member renews Food Bank connections

???????????????????????????????By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

Ellen Roland is the new Culinary School program manager for the Food Bank of Delaware’s Milford branch. Although she’s new to the position, she is not unfamiliar with the Food Bank. She brings a wealth of experience, including one that’s unique: she is a graduate of the program as well.

“I think I have a different perspective. Because I was a student, I have the best of both worlds,” she said.

And Chad Robinson, Milford’s branch director, agrees.

“We are happy to have Ellen join our team at the Food Bank of Delaware.  As a former student, we know Ellen will bring unique insight into helping us grow our program,” he said.

The Culinary School is a 14-week program for adults. It is also a certified trade school by the Delaware Department of Education.

Ellen, a New York native, moved to Milford about 18 months ago when her husband’s job transferred him to the area. Her background is in the retail world, managing and opening up new stores.

She’s the youngest of 12 children, and when her mother became ill, she put her retail career on hold to become a caretaker.

When it was time to re-enter the working world six years later, Ellen took a second look at her skills and thought about opening a catering business, specifically one geared toward weddings.

Prompted by a notice in the newspaper, she enrolled in The Culinary School and graduated with Milford’s second class.

“I’ve always loved to cook, and I’ve always been around food,” she said, adding that her mother regularly made home-made pastas and bread.

“I was brought up old school.”

Ellen said her experience at The Culinary School provided valuable education, complementing what she already learned in the retail world, even though she didn’t go to work in a restaurant after her graduation.

She said that Chef Instructor Tim Hunter encouraged her to seek opportunities in “the front of house,” the food service term for the dining room, as opposed to the kitchen.

So when she learned about the opening for a program manager here, she applied.

Still new to the job, Ellen says she is enjoying not only the challenges of learning her new responsibilities, but also helping students become successful.

The students in the current class will graduate on Friday, May 8, so they are moving into their two-week internships very soon.

“It’s so great to be able to help people, so gratifying,” she said.

In addition, Ellen is now working to populate the next class of students by scheduling interviews with possible recruits.

“I’m excited and proud to be a part of the Food Bank team,” she said.

For more information on The Culinary School, visit

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Children and adults to “Come Together” for state’s first-ever multi-generational anti-hunger conference


Jared Bernstein, Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Former Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joseph Biden, will provide morning keynote remarks.

Hundreds of anti-hunger advocates will gather at the Chase Center on the Riverfront on Monday, May 4 as part of the state’s first-ever multi-generational anti-hunger conference.

The conference, presented by the Food Bank of Delaware, Brae’s Brown Bags and the Food Research and Action Center, is entitled Coming Together: A Community Response to Hunger to reflect that it takes everyone – children, adults, nonprofits, government entities, businesses, faith-based organizations, educational institutions and others – working together to end hunger in our communities.

“What started as a gathering of local anti-hunger advocates two years ago, has grown into a conference where real community change is happening,” said Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe. “As a result of past conferences, we have made great strides to increase participation in school breakfast, action to increase the amount of fresh produce for low-income Delawareans and more. With the inclusion of children in this year’s conference, we know we can all work together, regardless of age, to make meaningful change.”

The all-day conference will feature programming for both adults and children. The morning Coming Together Political Town Hall will feature prominent state democrats and republicans including State Senator Bryan Townsend, State Representative Helene Keeley, Senator Colin Bonini and State GOP Chairman Charlie Copeland. The town hall will feature hunger and poverty-related questions from school-aged children representing Delaware’s three counties.

At the conclusion of the political town hall, kids will be dismissed to their own programming focused on healthy eating, fitness, the legislative process, food insecurity, gardening and food waste and more.

“I think want I want most out of the conference 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 hope the conference will inspire others kids to get involved.”

The morning will also feature a children’s nutrition panel for adults with representatives from USDA, the Harry K Foundation, Delaware Department of Education, Share Our Strength, New York City Coalition Against Hunger and the Food Research and Action Center. At that time, the Food Bank of Delaware will also announce the winners of its first-ever school breakfast challenge.

Jared Bernstein, Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Former Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joseph Biden and Dr. Sandra Hassink, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, will provide keynote remarks during the morning and lunchtime hours. Afternoon breakout sessions will focus on military families and veterans, workforce development and agriculture.


Dr. Sandra Hassink, President, American Academy of Pediatrics, will provide keynote remarks during the lunchtime hour.

When: Monday, May 4; 7:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Where: Chase Center on the Riverfront, 815 Justison Street, Wilmington, 19801

Registration: Registration is $40/person and includes a continental breakfast and lunch; price increases by $10 after April 17

7:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.

Registration/continental breakfast/exhibits
Christina Ballroom

8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
Opening remarks
Keynote remarks – Speaker TBD
Riverfront Ballroom

9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Riverfront Ballroom
Adults and children
Coming Together: A Political Town Hall Meeting

10:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.

Kids are dismissed to kids track for remainder of day

10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Riverfront Ballroom
Announcement of School Breakfast Challenge winners and Children’s Nutrition panel

12 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Riverfront Ballroom
Keynote remarks from Dr. Sandra Hassink, President, American Academy of Pediatrics

1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.
Afternoon adult workshops in breakout rooms

Panel: Workforce Development
Panel: Hunger and Harvest
Panel: Saying “Thank You” – Meeting the Needs of Military Families and Veterans

3:00 p.m.
Closing remarks
Riverfront Ballroom

3:15 p.m.

Backpack Program packing event and happy hour sponsored by JPMorgan Chase
Governor’s Hall

Thank you sponsors:

AARP Delaware


Bank of America


Agilent Technologies
Christiana Care
Giant Food
Harvey Hanna & The Delaware Kids Fund
Highmark Delaware
Ruth Mayer
Zakat Foundation

Complete panel descriptions and speakers, registration and more information can be found at

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Volunteers find rewards in lending a hand to the Food Bank of Delaware

0408_Violet02By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

Here at the Food Bank of Delaware we have a special place in our heart for volunteers. After all, they help us fight hunger in Delaware every single day.

Violet Sorden of Milford signed up to volunteer at our Milford site in February. She retired from the state Division of Social Services after 28 years and had become caregiver for her father, but she decided to volunteer in order ”to do something to get out of the house.”

So she comes in each week to help Missy Holochwost, our Senior Nutrition and Mobile Pantry Coordinator, with clerical tasks.

What a perfect match!

“I was a little nervous at first, but everybody here is really friendly. I definitely enjoy it,” Violet said.

As a social service professional, Violet is familiar with the paperwork tied to programs that assist people in need.

So Missy set up a mini-desk/workstation next to the window where Violet makes phone calls or sends out letters during the 6-8 hours a week she volunteers.

“I really missed all of this,” she said. “I enjoyed talking to people on the phone.”

Her time benefits everyone, including our clients.

“This really hit the bell for both of us. I do multiple programs, and I wouldn’t be able to do it without physical help with all the paperwork,” said Missy.

The Food Bank of Delaware offers many volunteer opportunities, including stacking, sorting and packing food donations, preparing and packing meals for children and creating meal boxes that go to seniors and families.

Last year, there were 15,691 volunteer visits to the Food Bank, totaling 41,455 hours or the equivalent of 19 full-time staff members.

Volunteers are always welcome and opportunities can be found at!

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Nutritious food can be fun, tasty and easy to fix!

By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

An inviting aroma of freshly-cooked food greeted guests who walked into the Milford State Service Center on Friday morning.

That’s because Lau???????????????????????????????ra McAllister, a WIC food demonstration specialist from the Food Bank of Delaware, set up a portable cooking station in the lobby.

Laura’s job is to show mothers who receive WIC benefits how to prepare healthy and inviting dishes based on items they can purchase using their vouchers.

In Delaware, one in five children lives in poverty.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website, WIC is a “Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) that provides Federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.”

The WIC food list includes fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, eggs, milk, cheese, peanut butter, bread, dried beans, and some cereals, and although the foods are healthy, some young parents may be challenged to make them appealing and appetizing to young children.

So Laura, and Amanda, her New Castle County counterpart, create recipes, demonstrate the preparation and offer samples to WIC recipients. In addition to Milford, Laura also visits service centers in Frankford, Georgetown, Seaford and D0327_laura01over each month.

On Friday, she prepared a Sweet Potato, Corn and Black Bean Hash on an induction cooktop and a Mango Blueberry Smoothie in a blender for clients.

Kids, for example, might not be willing to sample avocado and sweet potato on their own merits, but Laura says it’s easy to sneak avocado or other vegetables into a very tasty smoothie.

Laura also offers WIC clients recipe cards, complete with step-by-step directions and nutritional information.

And there’s a bonus for mothers who agree to fill out a questionnaire/ survey for Laura.

The survey, which takes an estimated 3-5 minutes, asks questions about food frequency, WIC voucher use, plus a few knowledge-based questions.

Those who choose to participate go home with a cookbook full of useful and tasty recipes and a very colorful My Plate plate for their children.

For more information on this and other programs offered by the Food Bank of Delaware, visit

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Senior Cooking Class with Chef Tim


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

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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

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Filed under Children's Nutrition, Hunger-Relief Partners