Category Archives: FBD Staff

My Summer at the Food Bank of Delaware

By Gabrielle Gilliam-Harris, Service Learning Scholar

You know the feeling you have as a freshman in college on your first day of classes? You leave for your first class and you find yourself desperately trying to recall everything from your campus tour. Thank goodness for your amazing RA who sees you struggling and comes to bring you a map and help you navigate this new experience. On my first day interning at the Food Bank of Delaware I learned that feeling was not an isolated incident, but something I was currently revisiting, and would be faced with many times in life. Thank goodness for my supervisor, Matt Talley (Talley) providing such awesome guidance and support.

My name is Gabrielle Gilliam-Harris and this summer I was a Service-Learning Scholar at the Food Bank of Delaware. My task this summer was to create a SNAP Helpline for the SNAP Outreach Program. I expected to come in and essentially be told what to do, but that is not what happened. Talley simply sat down with me and we talked about why the helpline was so important and specific goals that he needed the helpline to accomplish. I was treated like a team member rather than an assistant, which I really appreciated. Talley gave me a lot of creative freedom, which scared me at first. However, I see now, it was a mix of that very freedom and the events that we went to that taught me the richest lessons this summer.

Going to outreach events at several locations showed me the variety of services and outreach approaches that exist. No two experiences were the same, and we had to adapt and determine the best style of outreach for each one. In addition, interacting with people and watching the way Talley interacted with people taught me a lot about the nature of outreach and food insecurity as well. Listening to each person’s personal situation and talking to Talley about his experiences taught me what kinds of questions we might encounter on the helpline. These experiences, along with Talley’s guidance gave me the tools I needed to create a SNAP Helpline that would best cater to the callers. I learned the best way to help people is to truly understand where they are coming from and what they want to get out of the helpline.

Having more control over the project gave me the opportunities to learn what worked and what did not. This enabled me to learn a lot more from my experience than if I had simply been given orders. In addition, it built my problem solving skills and gave me confidence in my own abilities to tackle other projects in the future. My experience at the Food Bank of Delaware not only enhanced my life as a student, but as a professional and as a part of my community. I have already seen myself applying my new knowledge and skills to other parts of my life and I cannot wait to use the lessons I learned in class this coming semester.

I’d like to thank Talley and the rest of the staff at the Food Bank of Delaware for continuously supporting me this summer! Thank you for an amazing experience!

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Legislative Day in Dover

DSC_0060compressedBy Dan Reyes, Coalition to End Hunger Coordinator

Every year around the start of summer, those wandering the corridors of Legislative Hall are greeted by a veritable sea of tie-dye—it’s hard to miss the Food Bank of Delaware’s Legislative Day. Staff and supporters travel to Dover to educate elected officials about the hunger crisis in our state and what FBD is doing to help, and in turn, the legislature is kind enough to pass a resolution commending our work.

In years past there has been a conspicuous absence at legislative day—those who rely upon the Food Bank of Delaware and its partners for emergency food assistance. Neighbors struggling with poverty and food insecurity are all too often left out of debates and conversations over the policies that directly impact them. The inclusion of this perspective is critical to ensuring that elected officials are working in the best interest of the constituents that they serve.

This year, when given the floor in the State Senate, our President & CEO Patricia Beebe gave only a few brief remarks, before turning the podium over to Edward Hawkins, a Dover Resident and a client of the Food Bank of Delaware. Edward, a Vietnam-era veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, was widowed after the passing of his wife last August. The loss of his wife was not only emotionally taxing, but also impacted his financial stability. The SNAP cuts of 2013 proved devastating, as he described to legislators:

“Prior to those cuts my food stores ran out approximately four days before the next month’s allotment. Now it has increased to two weeks. During that period, I got the chance to experience ‘true hunger’, which caused a weight loss of 20 pounds.”

Edward found relief through FBD’s mobile pantry program, where he filled out a “story card” expressing his interest in advocacy efforts. Not long after he began working with me to prepare for Legislative Day, culminating in his eloquent and impactful remarks on June 3rd. After speaking, Edward shared, “That was tough…it’s hard to get up in front of people I don’t know and feel so exposed. I don’t like feeling pitied…but I know this is important. I hope that by doing this, it will make it possible for other people in my situation to do the same.”

For both FBD and Edward, this is only the beginning. We are in the process of developing a “Witnesses to Hunger” program, an expansion of a project of Drexel University’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities that seeks to engage caregivers of low-income households in participant-led advocacy efforts. Ensuring our clients can advocate for policies that will allow for greater opportunity and self-reliance is just as important to us as providing emergency food assistance.

Peace, Love, End Hunger.


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Filed under Advocate, Events, Face of Hunger, FBD Staff, Hunger

My Internship Experience

By Natosha Bratcher, Communications Intern

My experience here at the Food Bank of Delaware as an intern in the Newark location for the spring 2014 semester has been a wonderful and enlightening experience. It has really been a time of learning for me. Before becoming an intern, I was not familiar with the organization and the numerous programs that they have. The number of people who benefit from the Food Bank’s daily operations is astounding, and the work that they do for the Delaware community is much needed.

I did not realize how prevalent the issue of hunger is here in the state of Delaware and how many people are participants in each program. These include the Children’s Nutrition Programs (After-School Nutrition Program, Backpack Program, Summer Food Service Program), The Culinary School, the Supplemental Nutrition Education Assistance Education Program (SNAP-Ed), Kid C.H.E.F, Senior Nutrition, Mobile Pantry, SNAP Outreach, School Pantries and the Community Supported Agriculture Program. From young children to the elderly, the Food Bank of Delaware ensures that all Delaware residents in need of assistance are helped.

I also did not realize how much the Food Bank of Delaware relied on volunteers to help with its daily operations. Volunteers do countless duties including helping with mailings, assembling meal boxes for the seniors and bags full of food for the children participating in the Backpack Program. The Food Bank of Delaware constantly is bustling with volunteer activity. Different organizations including schools, churches, local companies and corporations send their members every week to help with these duties and help sort the daily food donations that come into the Food Bank.

Overall, I enjoyed my experience and had a great time interacting with fellow volunteers and staff members at the Food Bank of Delaware!

Thank you, Natosha, for your work this semester! Everyone at the Food Bank of Delaware will miss you!

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The other ride

By Nicole Wilson, Chef Instructor

As I came into the warehouse on a crisp October morning at 7:30 a.m., drinking my cup of coffee, I looked for John Sease, one of our drivers, to take me out on his truck that day.  I had been curious to see firsthand what it is like for the Food Bank drivers working their daily routines and the impact they have on our organization and community.

John greeted me as he was loading up his Chase “Driving Out Hunger” truck.  He was busily moving inventory onto the truck, and the main item today was tomatoes.  Other Food Bank warehouse employees and drivers were quickly moving pallets of food, strategizing their plan of attack for the day’s deliveries.

As I jumped into the truck, I was both eager and nervous.  Prior to our trip together, I had not had much conversation with John due to our different schedules.  John tells me about the route and the partner organizations we’d be visiting.   I can already see how passionate he is about his job.

A few people, including John, were surprised I wanted to go with him that day, but I wanted to know the ins and outs of the Food Bank so that I can better advocate for our organization, partners and the people that we touch.  John has been with the Food Bank for six years and started in the warehouse and has since become a leader at the Food Bank.  He is well liked amongst his peers, and partnering organizations love him.

As we are driving, I ask John how he knows what order goes to which agency

“The donations that come in from the local grocers and farmers get dispersed amongst the partners,” he says.

There’s an order sheet that gets printed out with the food on it, and John knows by heart what the partner receives from the Food Bank.  I learned that Mondays and Wednesdays are good days to go out and see where delivers most of the food.

First on our list was Child Inc.  It’s located within a development that has many children. When we pulled up, children were catching the school bus.  John unloads plenty of boxes of tomatoes, and they are stacked high in the organization’s driveway.

Our next stop is Pantry of Hope.  John backs his truck up to their loading dock and greets Mr. Leroy as he pulls up in his van to receive our order.  John talks to him for a couple minutes. Mr. Leroy was happy to see John.  I inquired about the number of people served at this particular location.  He said several hundred people use this site to receive their food.  Pantry of Hope shops weekly at the Food Bank, and we also deliver assorted goods once a week.

Donny helps us unload and as soon as it’s off the truck he begins to separate the order in order put it away.  Pantry of Hope stays busy working to meet the needs of the community

We quickly move on to the next stop.  On the way John gets a phone call from one of our partners inquiring about their food order.  John informs the individual that we will be there shortly.

The next delivery is for Neighborhood House.  The receptionist, Ms. Rochelle, greets John very quickly as she is multitasking between the phone and receiving our order.  Mr. Henry, a Neighborhood House retiree, jumps in to help us unload flats of tomatoes from the pallet.  Together we unload 30 boxes of tomatoes, and John and Mr. Henry talk like they have been friends for years!   John goes in for a signature and wishes the receptionist happy birthday.  She is flattered and tells him to have a good day!

As John expertly drives his truck down this narrow street near Life St. Stephen’s Food Closet we see at least 15 people waiting for our drop off.  They look cold and no smiles on their faces.  You can feel the down trodden vibe amongst the group.  Two guys help John.  One gentleman pulls me to the side and tells me how much John is a blessing to them.  They say he’s a good man and praise him.  I can feel the love they have for him and the Food Bank as I wish them well.  Many people in the community depend on John and the Food Bank!

As John rides through Wilmington, he begins telling me about Daryl Graham from JPMorgan Chase.  Many years ago, John drove a truck without air conditioning. The summers were brutal! Daryl talked to John and promised him a truck with air conditioning.  Daryl made it happen for the Food Bank and now John delivers in an air conditioned truck!

The next stop is the Delawarr State Service Center.  Miss Saunders is waiting patiently with a warm smile on her face and greets John with a nice welcome.  We unloaded 30 cases for the center  and then said our goodbyes and it’s on the road again.

Next, we stop at Harry O. Eisenberg Elementary School and then it’s off to B.J.’s in Newark for a pick up.

We pull up to the loading dock, and Betty greets us with a smile and a hello.  She talks with John and explains the pick-up as we go to the freezer to get the inventory.  They had a half of a pallet today for the Food Bank.

We head back to the Food Bank and I am told that I would not be allowed to go to the Port of Wilmington due to safety issues.  So I decide to go with Erik Klair and Brian Henderson for a pickup at the S.I.W. Farm for the CSA program.

We ride out to the farm and meet the farmer, H.G. Haskell. The farm is very authentic and beautiful.  The farm has horses, dogs and even a mole that kept us company. H.G. wasted no time packing up the vans and then we were on our way back to the Food Bank with a load of fresh tomatoes and cabbage.

I learned a great deal about the Food Bank while I was on the road. It showed me that one person can make a difference! Whether it’s being a delivery driver, a chef instructor, a warehouse worker, an administrative assistant, a registered dietician, a CEO, an intern, a volunteer, a programs director, a programs manager, a volunteer coordinator, etc., each one of us at the Food Bank plays an important role!

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to bond with another Food Bank employee, even if it was just for a couple of hours, and embrace the impact that his daily routine has on the surrounding community.  I am honored to be a part of the team at the Food Bank and to know the great people that represent this cause to end hunger!

Check out some photos from my trip!

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Filed under FBD Staff, Hunger, Hunger-Relief Partners, Programs, Supporters, Warehouse

Summer Through the Eyes of the Intern

By Mike Dombkoski, Communications Intern

When it comes to searching for internships for University of Delaware students, the Food Bank of Delaware (FBD) probably doesn’t immediately catch the eye. Business students look for work with high ranking financial institutions, science majors may look at hospitals or research opportunities, and, somehow, a place that genuinely helps people the way the Food Bank does, gets overlooked.

I began my internship here at the Food Bank back in late May, and I’ll be finishing up my last week here in late August. I found out about the internship way back in the fall when communications director, Kim Turner (aka my current boss), came into my Intro to Public Relations class and I ended up having to do a project for FBD.

For many students, an unpaid internship at a small(-ish) non-profit may not jump out at them. For me, it was exactly what I was looking for. After a few months of hounding Kim every time she came to UD and harassing her with emails, I eventually set up an internship to work for her for the summer.

Going back to my first day in May, to be honest, I was pretty scared. I had worked plenty of jobs before, but as someone who had just finished his sophomore year, I had never worked an internship before and never in an office. Walking in to the building, I was immediately greeted by Kim, who had the first office on the right. She did her best to make me feel welcomed by introducing me to everyone who worked for the Food Bank.

And when I say everyone, I mean everyone.

She reassured me that I did not need to memorize everyone’s name right then, and my brain relaxed a little at that sentiment.

From there, I was thrown right into the mix. I remember calling my mom proudly that day to tell her about my day and showing off that I had worked right through lunch, not leaving my work to eat my packed peanut butter and jelly.

Now, of course, not every day was like this. Every business has its slow days and busy days, as does every internship. But working at an internship where I worked both in and out of the office was a refreshing, new experience.

In the first couple of weeks, I was able to meet NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon and Governor of Delaware Jack Markell through a couple of events. I have to admit, I would not have expected to meet such high profile people through an internship like this, but, lucky for me, I did.

But this internship was a lot more than just meeting people that I could show off to my friends and family for meeting. Some students can work internships where they work all day and rarely see how their company is affecting or helping people. That’s not the case here.

On more than one occasion, I got to see how the Food Bank helps Delaware and the people that they are helping. These are people who have lost jobs, family members, or can no longer work for whatever reason, and, without the help of the Food Bank, probably would not make it.

Two of my favorite moments of the internship came recently. One was at our mobile pantry at the Northeast State Services Center in Wilmington. Families were able to take home up to 30 pounds of food after taking a financial literacy class at the center. Seeing the truck out in that parking lot, the cast of Bank of America volunteers helping, and the genuine appreciation on the faces and in the words of the families who were receiving the food made it obvious why the employees at the Food Bank enjoy doing what they do.


The other moment came when Kim and I went with truck driver John Sease to watch him deliver produce to some of our feeding sites in the area. The volunteers helping with the food at each site seemed excited each time John pulled up to their loading zone. Sease would ask about everyone’s family and knew specific things about all of them. It was then that I realized the Food Bank provides a lot more than just food.

Through my three short months at the Food Bank, I learned a lot more than I would have working in just a “regular” office. I made friends, learned the inner workings of a food bank (no, you don’t just pick up the food directly from here), and learned skills that you cannot acquire sitting at a desk. I gained a greater appreciation of things. Most importantly, I learned it’s better to love a job by the work you are doing, and not by a paycheck.

Late into the internship, Kim made it a habit of preaching small life lessons every now and then. Some were serious, some funny, but all worth listening to. One definitely stuck with me.

“Stay humble.”

If nothing else, the Food Bank of Delaware has taught me to appreciate my life more, think of others, and to never put myself above anyone else. I can truly understand the meaning of the word humble when I look at Kim and many of the other employees here fighting the never-ending problem of hunger in Delaware.

I can’t thank the Food Bank of Delaware, Kim Turner, and everyone else who helped me along the way enough. Thank you so much for this opportunity and I hope to see you all in the future.

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A Day in the Food Bank Delivery Truck!

By Mike Dombkoski, Communications Internsease2

The Food Bank of Delaware provides a great service to the state of Delaware by providing emergency food assistance for people in need in the area. As an intern working in the office for the most part, it can be easy to overlook or forget that aspect. On August 7th, I had the opportunity to ride along with one of our truck drivers, John Sease, in order to deliver produce to the Food Bank of Delaware’s hunger-relief program partners. I was instantly reminded of all the help the Food Bank does provide.

Dropping off at several stops throughout Northern Delaware, John’s truck was continually greeted by smiling faces at the pickup area. Simply by watching, I could tell how much the people appreciated the produce, which included corn, potatoes, squash and other fresh vegetables, and the services the Food Bank provides. I also noticed how much the volunteers seemed to enjoy John’s presence, and how he seemed to enjoy theirs as well.

“I think you really need to enjoy your job if you want to work here,” said Sease. “I like working here. It’s not just about a paycheck for me.”

The obvious connections between Sease and the volunteers are likely what make John enjoy his job so much. Whether the site was at a church or a daycare, the giant Food Bank of Delaware truck was greeted with smiles each time.

Seeing the people that genuinely need help from the Food Bank not only made me appreciate the work done here, but made me realize how much the people who truly need the assistance appreciate it as well.

On the way back to the Food Bank after our final drop off of the morning, Sease told some short stories from years of experience driving the truck and talked a little about his family. Some of the stories involved dangerous incidents, some involved laughter and some just involved nice experiences with Delawareans. I could tell all of it was sincere.

The Food Bank of Delaware provides a lot of assistance to those in need. But, in the short few hours I spent in the truck, I could tell they provide a lot more than just food.


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Acme Shopping Spree results in $11,000 donation for the Food Bank of Delaware

We are excited to announce that Acme Markets has donated $11,000 to our hunger-relief efforts in the state of Delaware. The donation is a result of an Acme shopping spree that took place last Thursday through the aisles of the grocer’s Dover store (check out the video!).

Food Bank of Delaware staff members were joined by NASCAR truck series drivers Ron Hornaday and Brennan Newberry and WBOC News Director Mike Chesney for a race around the store. Acme president Jim Perkins issued a challenge to the “racers,” “collect more than $1,500 during the 99-second shopping spree and Acme will double the amount collected.”

During the spree the team loaded grocery carts with high-price items such as diapers, large slabs of meat, laundry detergent and more. More than seven carts lined the checkout, and it took more than 20 minutes to ring up the items. The team collected more than $5,300 worth of products.

“As the official grocery store of the Dover International Speedway, Acme is proud to partner with NASCAR in supporting the work of the Food Bank of Delaware,” said Jim Perkins, Acme president. “It was great fun for a great cause.”

“I was so excited to participate in the Acme shopping spree,” said Food Bank of Delaware Milford Volunteer Coordinator Matthew Brandi. “Before I started I set a mental game plan to go for the high-dollar items in order to get the largest donation for the food bank. It worked, and I am so proud of the team!”

“Acme continues to step up to help us alleviate hunger in the First State,” said Food Bank of Delaware Branch Director Chad Robinson. “From the weekly fresh food donations to events throughout the year, this donation will go a long way in helping the one in four Delawareans who depend on our network of emergency food assistance services each year.”

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