The Newark Food Bank is bringing innovation to their new facility
BY Senior Reporter
The Food Bank of Delaware’s Newark location has recently moved to a new facility, and its new, unique features are expected to help the bank provide groceries and jobs to more people in need than ever before.
With twice the square footage, twice the kitchen space and almost four times the number of loading docks and storage space, the Food Bank will now be able to distribute food to hungry Delawareans directly from their new facility at 222 Lake Drive.
This larger new facility contains a café, where employees, volunteers and community members can purchase breakfast or lunch. The property also includes four acres of open land. The Food Bank is working to cultivate this into viable farmland with which to grow vegetables and start up a farm stand.
Kim Turner, the communications director for the Delaware Food Bank in Newark, said that the café and farm stand will eventually become open to the public as a way for the community as a whole to help fund the Food Bank’s social enterprises.
“Not every food bank has a café and not every food bank has a farm,” Turner said. “There’s a lot of exciting innovations that we’re doing here. I think it’s a risk, but we’re hoping that they will work out.”
The farm already has two greenhouses and a propagation house — where new plant seeds and bulbs are created — in production. In time, with more donations and more volunteers to help, the Food Bank hopes to build more greenhouses and increase their food production further.
Sean Duncan, the community farm manager at the Food Bank’s new property, said that this summer, the goal is to start with about 50 customers at the farm stand based on their production and sourcing from other local farmers. He said that with the new greenhouses, they’ll be able to do a four-season crop rotation. There are currently tomatoes and peppers currently growing for the summer season. Duncan said they will most likely be planting fruit trees next spring as well.
“We’re able to extend that growing season because of the propagation house and because of the greenhouses,” Duncan said. “Varieties and things will change, both due to what we’re successful with and what we’re not so successful with and also what our customers want and need.”
Turner said that the farm was not in the plans when they first bought the new facility. It was after seeing the amount of space they had outside the building that the vision for the farm was created.
The Food Bank offers a number of training programs for adults including a culinary school, ServSafe certification (a food and beverage safety training and certificate program administered by the National Restaurant Association), a course on logistics, operations, general warehousing and inventory control (LOGIC), and Farm and Agriculture Skills Training (FAST).
After 28 years at their old facility, the Food Bank decided it was time to make a move to something bigger, and purchased the new space in 2016.
Turner said that they have wanted to add new training programs for community members for a long time, but they ran out of room for new students and more equipment at their old facility. With the expanded kitchen and warehouse space, as well as the addition of the café and farmstand, the Food Bank will be able to take on more students for training.
Turner said that students are recruited throughout the year for these programs and that the bank receives a lot of referrals from community-based organizations such as the Department of Labor, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Department of Corrections.
“We provide the students with scholarships and we also have other funding sources for them, so traditionally, no student pays out-of-pocket,” Turner said.
The Food Bank’s direct mail program brings in roughly $1 million annually, solely from local members of the community sending in donations. However, Turner said the Food Bank must still raise $2.6 million to cover the remaining costs of the move to the new building.
The Food Bank, which became operational in its new location in April, has a diverse funding stream between the corporations and foundations that support them, through contracts with the Department of Labor for the culinary school and Delaware Health and Social Services for pilot programs. However, Turner said she is hoping the community will step up and support them, especially at their grand opening celebration on June 21st.
Kevin Aull, a volunteer at the bank from Elkton, Maryland, has spent a lot of time has spent a lot of time helping out at the new space since its opening. He said he is excited about the new facility with all of its new space. Although Aull was on his fourth consecutive day volunteering, he said that he plans to keep coming back whenever he can.
“I just wanted to do something where I could feel like I was working with a team,” Aull said. “You get to meet locals, make new friends, and know that you’re helping people fight hunger. It’s a really good feeling.”