Nearly 100 supporters, community members, politicians and more gathered Friday at the Food Bank of Delaware’s topping-off ceremony for its new $32 million warehouse.
Everyone was invited to sign the steel beam, which when placed symbolized the completion of the structural construction.
The ceremony included the traditional placement of a small evergreen tree on the beam, a symbol of future good luck, as well as an American flag, said Steve Thompson, a Food Bank board member and chairman of its capital campaign.
The 67,000-square-foot facility on 11.5 acres will house the Food Bank’s community food distribution program and workforce development programs.
It also will allow the creation of a community Healthy Foods Pantry and have space for a café where culinary students can learn valuable skills while feeding the community breakfast and lunch.
As in Newark, the Milford project will include an outdoor community garden where fresh food will be grown, for distribution to clients and for the cafe.
Food Bank expansion
Cathy Kanefsky, president and CEO of the Food Bank, said the project will be paid for through donations and grants.
About $24 million already has been secured. and Kanefsky said she expects to meet the goal over the next few months. The Food Bank hopes to open without a mortgage, she said.
“We do more than provide food. We provide hope for a better tomorrow. That is why this project is so important,” Kanefsy said. “This building will allow us to not only distribute food, but help our neighbors find long-term economic stability through job skills training, financial coaching and more.”
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The Food Bank’s current Milford building is only 16,000 square feet, so the new location represents a significant increase in size, she said.
The current building has been sold to the previous owner who is generously renting it to them for $10 a month as long as they still need the space.
The new building is expected to open in the fall, Kanefsky said.
With President Joe Biden planning to stop the national state of emergency order that authorized a lot of federal COVID money, Delaware’s Medicaid ranks will thin. Already, additional emergency supplemental food benefits are set to end Tuesday.
Kanefsky worries that many came to depend on those funds to put food on the table.
“Even though there is a return to normal, people have gotten used to having those extra funds and they need it,” she said.
Prior to the pandemic, the Food Bank — as all food banks do — charged fees to its partners for donated and bought food. During the pandemic, the Food Bank stopped charging those fees, partly because so much was being donated.
Those donations have slowed and the Food Bank is buying more food than ever before, at today’s inflated prices.
All that adds up to a $3 million difference in income between pre-pandemic funding and 2023, Kanefsky said.
“It forces us to look at ways to do things more efficiently,” Kanefsky said. She said teams are already evaluating where they can cut costs and have identified a few ways, including potentially making changes to home food deliveries by reducing the frequency or adjusting the types of items in the food boxes.
“We want to make sure what we are giving is being used,” she said.
During the event, Kanefsky thanked those who donated more than $10,000 including the Swank Family Foundation, State of Delaware, Barclays Bank, City of Milford, Perdue, Wills Group, Highmark Blue Cross, Welfare Foundation, he Happy Difference Foundation, Masonic Charities, Kent County, WSFS, Bank of America, M&T Bank, Corteva, GrowMark, Discover Card, Atlantis Fund, Dave Wilson, Ruth Mayer and Steve and Shelly Thompson.
For more about the project, go to www.fbd.org/hopeinmilford.
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