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The Food Bank of Delaware unveiled its new 70,000-square-foot facility in Milford, Delaware, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier this week. The transformative initiative is geared towards enhancing and ensuring greater accessibility to its services for the benefit of Kent and Sussex county residents.
Following the sale of its former Milford warehouse, Food Bank vice president Kim Turner reflected on the work it’s taken to transition from the smaller location across the street to the new building.
“We spent the past a little over two years building the facility. So we’re really excited that the doors are finally open so that we can help even more people in the state of Delaware,” she said.
“Since 2000, we have had a small warehouse on Mattlind Way in Milford. So we are pretty much just across the street now in a much larger building that will allow us to expand our programs and increase our offerings to people who are in need and the community in general.”
Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Perdue Chicken made the first donation to the facility, delivering two truckloads of chicken totaling over 83,000 pounds.
“With this increased space, we’ll have an opportunity to bring in more donations. We’ll be able to bring in more fresh foods from farmers in Kent and Sussex counties and we’ll be able to get them out to our network of community food pantries down state,” Turner added.
Before the expansion, the Food Bank faced operational constraints due to the limited capacity of their older warehouse. During the pandemic, the suspension of culinary training program classes provided extra space for activities like volunteer work. However, upon resumption of those programs, the organization faced a shortage of space.
To address these challenges, a dividing wall was used to repurpose areas for programs or classes. Additionally, they rented extra facilities to meet the growing demand for space and storage.
“We had a dividing wall that you could pull in and out, and we were able to open up our volunteer rooms so that we could have increased activity as a result of the pandemic. When our culinary training program resumed, we had to close that wall back up and we lost a lot of valuable space,” Turner said. “As a result of the limited space, we were actually renting a second building in the industrial park. We had no more space to bring cold food products into the warehouse, no additional cold storage. All of that is now rectified with the new building.”
The $34-million facility features an expanded cold storage area, distributing 3.7 million pounds of fresh foods and 6 million pounds of nonperishables. Additionally, the facility houses a healthy pantry center, a volunteer room for sorting donations, spaces for workforce programs, a 3.5-acre garden and a distinctive cafe.
Beyond its primary mission of aiding those in need, the facility is set up to assist people at different points in their lives. Turner said everyone is encouraged, regardless of their current circumstances, to take advantage of the organization’s resources.
“We operate our traditional culinary school, which is a 14-week training program for adults who might be in a career transition. They may be re-entering society from the Department of Corrections, they might be just looking for a second chance,” she explained, noting their commitment to inclusivity. “We also offer another culinary training program called the kitchen school. It’s a 12-week culinary training program for adults with disabilities.”
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