A Delaware food bank is breaking ground on downstate location to meet rise in demand

Food Bank of Delaware breaks ground on the new Center in Southern, Delaware. (Picture from Kim Turner, Public Relation of Food Bank of Delaware)

Food Bank of Delaware breaks ground on the new Center in Southern, Delaware. (Picture from Kim Turner, Public Relation of Food Bank of Delaware)

The Food Bank of Delaware recently broke ground on its new Kent County center in Milford, a 67,000-square-foot facility that will provide expanded training programs and food distribution capabilities. The building, which will replace the present 16,000-square-foot Milford Branch on Mattlind Way, is scheduled to open in October 2023.

The building will cost about $34 million. The non-profit is hoping to raise $10 million through its “Building Hope in Milford” campaign to finish paying construction costs.

“The word hope is a powerful word,” said Cathy Kanefsky, president and CEO of the Food Bank of Delaware. She said the new facility will help more people have hope in the face of food insecurity. “When you wake up and you’re hungry and you can’t feed your child and you don’t know where your next meal is going to come from, that’s a really, really hopeless feeling.”

Currently, the agency has received funding help from the Swank Family Foundation, Barclays, Purdue, as well as federal, local, and state government funds.

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Food insecurity has increased in Delaware and around the nation since the pandemic began as people have lost their jobs and livelihoods.

“We saw an influx, an incredible influx of folks coming to us that needed help,” Kanefsky said. “We doubled our distribution, from the fiscal year ending 2020 to 2021 and now this past year we actually have seen an increase still.”

As pandemic restrictions were lifted, the demand started to ease, but only temporarily. Increasing inflation has drawn more people back to the Food Bank for help. “People are having trouble making ends meet,” Kanefsky said.

According to Feeding America, Delaware has nearly 94,000 people facing hunger – about 31,000 are children.

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The new Milford site will be able to add programs that already exist at the Food Bank’s headquarters space in Newark. The current Milford location is just 16,000 sq. ft., and not large enough to add those programs without renting additional space.

According to Kanefsky, the new building will better serve people. In addition to providing food for families, training programs that will soon be offered in Milford will help the community become more self-sufficient, educated, skilled, and able to put food on the table without the assistance of a food bank.

Steve Thompson, chairman of the “Building Hope for Milford” campaign and a board member of the Food Bank of Delaware, has volunteered at with the group for more than ten years and served on the board for six years. He lived on a farm with nine of his siblings and fortunately for them, they did not have to worry about food. That’s an experience he wants to give to other families too.

“It was clear that the size of the Milford facility was just not going to be sufficient even today or certainly not going forward,” Thompson said.

The new building will allow the Food Bank to add a program called Logic to the Milford area. Currently, the training program covering logistic operation, warehouse management, and inventory control is only available at the Newark location.

Milford’s new Food Bank of Delaware building will:

  • Increase cold storage and warehouse space to deliver an extra 3.7 million pounds of fresh foods and 6 million pounds of nonperishable food;
  • Create dedicated space for a Healthy Pantry Center to directly serve those in need of food assistance;
  • Construct a 5,000-square-foot volunteer room;
  • Create classroom and hands-on training space for training programs in culinary and warehousing/logistics;
  • Open an on-site café to provide employment and additional training opportunities to graduates of the culinary training program;
  • Plant a 3.5-acre garden to grow fresh foods for Delawareans in need.

In the near future, they hope to collaborate with the Delaware Veterans Home, a nearby facility, to transform the garden space into a tranquil gathering spot for its residents.

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