Category Archives: Hunger-Relief Partners

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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Partner Spotlight: Backpack Program at G.W. Carver Center


Michele Murphy shows of G.W. Carver’s new school pantry, sponsored by the Harry K Foundation. In addition to backpacks, district families may also utilize the pantry.

By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

Many of the participants in the Food Bank of Delaware’s Backpack Program are in elementary and middle school.

However, at the G.W. Carver Center in Frankford, there are 58 high school students enrolled in the Advanced Preliterate English Language Learners (APELL) program who are grateful to receive the weekend supply of food.

Many of them work in addition to going to school, said Michele Murphy, Parent Center Director. “They are some of the happiest kids. They want to learn. They are not greedy and appreciate whatever they are given.”

Some, she said, work in the poultry-processing plant in addition to attending school.

“It’s like giving them a million dollars in cash,” she said. Even though the Backpack Program is geared toward elementary-age students, the food makes a difference in these students’ lives.

The Backpack Program, now in its third week here, is distributed on Fridays.

“It’s inconspicuous,” said Mrs. Murphy, adding that the shelf-stable food packed in plastic bags is handed out in the three classrooms where the students are learning English, math and science.

“It’s better than nothing, and it’s a little variety,” she said.

“The students are thrilled. It’s been successful beyond our expectations. Who knows, the backpacks may keep them here.”

Mrs. Murphy said the students are not the only ones who benefit from the backpacks.

“The teachers are also very appreciative. They could tell the students need some nourishment over the weekend. They feel like Santa Claus,” she added.

Teacher Lori Ott agrees the backpacks are an important part of the students’ educational experiences.

“They appreciate it, and they are ready for them,” she said.

To learn more about the Backpack Program, please click here.


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Partner Spotlight: After-School Nutrition Program at Gauger Middle School’s 4-H Program

Gauger 4H mentorsBy Kim Turner, Communications Director

Every weekday morning, a group of dedicated volunteers work alongside Food Bank of Delaware staff in both Newark and Milford to prepare healthy after-school meals. Volunteers spend each morning bagging sandwiches and other items and loading individual-sized milk cartons and fruit into coolers. A fleet of drivers deliver the meals and snacks to after-school programs up and down the state. For many children, the meal received after school is the last healthy meal of the day until going back to school the next morning.

On average we deliver 6,500 meals each week. So far this school year, we have distributed 97,378 meals.

Sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), our after-school nutrition program fills a meal void for many Delaware families. We partner with after-school programs such as the University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension’s 4-H after-school program. Targeting at-risk youth, the program is housed at 13 statewide locations, including Gauger Middle School in Newark.

Last month I had the opportunity to visit the group of 4-H mentors housed at Gauger Middle School. Mentor Sherice Brown and eight others (pictured above) work with a group of more than 40 students, providing after-school enrichment programs to students. The program lasts for two hours every schoolday afternoon. In addition to homework help and recreational activities, the students also enjoy an after-school meal prepared by our team of volunteers. When I visited, students had tuna fish with crackers, celery, oranges and milk. Some recent and future programming includes construction of wooden bird houses, a culture project, microwave magic healthy cooking demonstrations and a career day.

The mentors, employed by the University of Delaware, are thankful for an opportunity to provide students with a meal.

Volunteers are currently needed to help prepare meals in both Newark and Milford. Click here to sign up to help in the Milford kitchen and here to help in Newark.

Does your after-school program want to serve free meals? To qualify for the program, sites must operate in areas where at least 50 percent of the children attending the nearest school qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. To learn more, please contact Kirsten Gooden, Children’s Nutrition Coordinator, at (302) 444-8128 or


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Retiree finds rewards in helping the hungry

1112_LF Food Pantry 02By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

For decades, Anne Paladino has been helping feed hungry people in and around Harrington.

For many people, this octogenarian is the face of the Lake Forest Church Association Food Pantry located in a city-owned building on Dorman Street.

But she is unassuming, modest and reluctant to take credit for her ongoing and continuing commitment to the non-profit agency.

The Lake Forest Church Association Food Pantry is part of a network of 550 hunger-relief partners that aid the Food Bank of Delaware in distributing food to needy families.

Anne, now retired, first lent a hand to this pantry as a representative of her church, St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church in Harrington.

She is now the pantry coordinator, a position in which she is able to use her well-honed administrative skills.

As coordinator, she volunteers to help “shop” at the Food Bank of Delaware’s Milford warehouse, to schedule the 60 volunteers, to pay the bills and to take care of the multitude of challenges that face a non-profit agency.

Some of these tasks, she says, she is able to do at home, telecommuting from her home phone and laptop computer.

“I work on this every day. I can interview and qualify clients on the phone. I give them an appointment the same day if they need the food,” she said.

Over the years, the demand for services has grown.

“When I first started, we served six to 12 families a month,” Anne said.

In the past year, the pantry serves about 200 families each month, and 225 in October 2014. It’s open from 9 a.m. until noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

About 60 volunteers keep the agency functioning efficiently, and each time the pantry is open the volunteers serve 30-35 families.

“We pack individually for each family. Some pantries do generic boxes, but we consider the families, and we give more than most,” she said.

“We have volunteers here every day.  I have never met such giving, wonderful people as the people who volunteer here.”

While some families need the food pantry’s services on a regular basis, Anne says she sees more new people every day.

“There are people who have never been here before. We have a lot of people who are working part-time hours. We’re located near three senior and low-income housing communities,” she said. “We try to serve just the Lake Forest School District, but we rarely turn anyone away.”

This retiree finds her volunteer hours are quite rewarding.

“The reward is doing something for someone who can’t help themselves. I can be involved. I don’t want to be an 80-year-old lady sitting in front of the TV. I don’t go to bingo. I don’t go to bars. I don’t bowl. This is what I do,” she said.

For more information about becoming a Food Bank of Delaware Hunger-Relief partner, visit

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Chesapeake Utilities Corporation donates $30,000 towards Food Bank of Delaware “Thanksgiving for All” food distribution

Check presentationThanks to a $30,000 donation from Chesapeake Utilities Corporation, 1,000 families in Kent and Sussex Counties will have a hot Thanksgiving meal.

More than 200 families received a holiday meal box – containing a frozen turkey, all of the trimmings and a roasting pan — at a distribution at St. Bernadette’s Church in Harrington on Monday.  Another 325 families were served outside Chesapeake Utilities’ Dover office on South Queen Street on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, 300-plus families were served at Long Neck United Methodist Church in Millsboro. The remaining boxes will be distributed at a mobile pantry in Dover early next week.

Approximately 165 Chesapeake volunteers spent three days packaging holiday meals last week and three days assisting the Food Bank of Delaware with this week’s holiday distribution. In both rain and frigid temperatures, committed volunteers loaded grocery carts with holiday boxes and turkeys and helped recipients load their cars.

“We are pleased to partner with the Food Bank of Delaware to give back to our community by providing Thanksgiving meals for 1,000 local families,” said Michael P. McMasters, President and Chief Executive Officer of Chesapeake Utilities Corporation. “This is just one way that we connect with our communities and it is something that our teams look forward to all year long.”

Chad Robinson, the Food Bank of Delaware’s Milford branch director, expressed gratitude for Chesapeake Utilities Corporation’s ongoing generosity. “Thanks to this generous donation from Chesapeake Utilities, we can meet the needs of 1,000 families, our neighbors, throughout downstate Delaware. The kindness and community spirit shown by Chesapeake’s workplace team is proof of their dedication to help the communities in which they live and work,” he said.

One recipient who wished to remain anonymous said, “This is such a blessing. Your staff, volunteers and donors have given us this wonderful box of food. It was cold and windy, but everyone pushed on. From my family and myself, thank you and have a blessed Thanksgiving.”

In addition to the holiday food distribution, Chesapeake Utilities Corporation is also making funding available to ensure that the elderly, ill and those facing financial hardship are not forgotten during the cold winter months when energy bills are at their peak. Grants are available to income-eligible customers of Chesapeake Utilities and Sharp Energy with additional amounts available for those over the age of 60. Also, the SHARING program has additional grants for appliance purchases or repair; the recently unemployed; and customers who are in need due to serious illness or family tragedy. Learn more about SHARING at

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Partner Spotlight: Milford pantry relies on community support

1110_milford_food_pantry01 (2)By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

Any way you do the math, the Milford Community Pantry is a busy place.

This pantry is one of 550 agencies certified as a Food Bank of Delaware hunger-relief program partner.

Started by the late Henry Cowgill more than 25 years ago, the pantry serves 80-100 families each month out of a converted classroom in the Avenue United Methodist Church.

Tita Lewis, the pantry’s director, and a volunteer for more than a decade, says that there are some misconceptions about the pantry because it’s located in the church. Some people, she said, believe the pantry is part of Avenue’s ministry.

Actually, the Milford Community Pantry, a separate not-for-profit agency, also partners with the Milford Lions Club.

“It’s the Milford pantry, the community’s pantry, and we get donations and volunteers from other churches,” she said.

“There are a couple small churches with a good hearts. This is a very giving community.”

Tita said she first got involved through the urging of a friend at a Bible study meeting.

“I wanted to say no, but given the setting, and we were talking about focusing on our spirit and God, so I said I will try,” she said.

“It’s been very, very rewarding for me. I always say I see God at work here all the time.”

The pantry relies on loyal volunteers to serve 15-20 families each week. Many ask for assistance because of economic hardships brought on by cold weather.

“We have families who come maybe three times a year. They just live so close to their budget that when the car needs to be fixed or they have to buy heating oil, it’s tough,” Tita said.

Diane Dolan, a retired teacher and active volunteer, explains that all clients need a referral, whether it’s from a pastor or state agency.

In addition to providing food, the Milford Community Pantry also offers toiletries, dish detergent and toilet paper. Clients also get a voucher from Redner’s for bread, milk, eggs and butter.

One of the greatest needs now is bars of soap. The pantry can always use peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, pasta and boxed macaroni of cheese.

“We have the best volunteers in the world. People who volunteer here say they enjoy it. They can see that they are helping people,” said Tita.

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Harry K. Foundation, Food Bank of Delaware mark grand opening of Indian River School District school pantry at G.W. Carver Educational Center

Harry KThanks to a generous donation from the Harry K. Foundation, anti-hunger advocates officially cut the ribbon on the new school pantry at the G.W. Carver Educational Center this morning.

Funds were raised at last year’s Harry K. Christmas Ball. Support from the Harry K Foundation allowed the food bank to provide 103 children from Sussex County with a backpack full of food for the entire school year and to open nine new school pantries in Sussex County schools, including the one at G.W. Carver.

Through the program, at-risk families with students enrolled in the Indian River School District will be able to access emergency food and hygiene products by visiting the food pantry. The new pantry will offer a variety of nutritious food products and hygiene items. Families will select food based on their household’s needs each week. Food for the pantry will be provided by the Food Bank of Delaware and school-wide food drives or community donations.

“Hunger is all around us and it is our civic responsibility to feed our people,” said Harry K. Foundation Founder Harry Keswani. “We are happy to work in cooperation with the Food Bank of Delaware and our local schools to feed our children and their families. We ask our local people and business owners to join us by donating to the Harry K. Foundation so that we can bring food pantries to more schools.”

“According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap study, 18.3 percent of Delaware’s children live in food insecure households,” said Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe. “We are thankful for the Harry K Foundation’s support to ensure that families in Sussex County have access to nutritious foods for their household.”

Child food insecurity is highest in Sussex County with 20.2 percent of children living in food insecure households.

“I am so happy that we have been able to open this and other pantries in our communities, but our task has only just begun,” said Harry K Foundation Spokesman Tim Buckmaster. “No child should go to bed hungry or worry about when the next meal may be. Together we can and will make a difference.”

“When our students’ basic needs of food, clothing and shelter are not being met, it is very difficult for them to excel at school and for their families to support their education at home,” said Indian River School District Superintendent Susan Bunting. Our district parent center was created to provide families with the tools they need to support student achievement – both academically and personally. The food pantry will be a great extension of these efforts and an important resource for our district families.”

The second annual Harry K Foundation Christmas Ball will be held on Saturday, December 6 at the Rehoboth Beach Country Club. Tickets are $250/person and can be purchased by visiting Proceeds will help fight childhood hunger in Sussex County.

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