Milford Food Bank celebrates first culinary graduating class

Terry RogersCulture, Education, Headlines, Milford Headline Story

The 2023 Culinary School graduates at the Food Bank of Delaware Milford Campus (Photo courtesy of Food Bank of Delaware)

The Milford campus of the Food Bank of Delaware celebrated their first graduating class for their culinary arts school. Eight students who have been learning about the culinary world while also undergoing training for food safety received their ServSafe Certifications as well as a Certificate of Completion at the ceremony.

“We’re so proud of everything they have done and want to thank you, all the family and friends who supported and encouraged them over the last few months and are here to celebrate their success today,” Anna McDermott, Chief Impact Officer, said. “These students would not be here today without everything that you do, so thank you to everyone who supports our training programs through donations of time and resources and makes it makes it possible for us to offer these opportunities. Today would not be possible without our dedicated workforce development team. These folks are so passionate about making sure that they can do everything they can to support these students.”

Cathy Kanefsky, President and CEO of the Food Bank of Delaware applauded the students as well as the many people in the room who were there to celebrate their accomplishments.

“You have shown another level of grit and determination and possibility that we are so proud. It’s been amazing to watch all the students grow, learn so much. They actually have had some opportunities that have been unique,” Kanefsky said. “They served lunch at our legislative luncheon at Legislative Hall in Dover. They’ve been able to serve buffets here. How many of you have been able to come to the buffets? Yeah, I was on my way down and I was told to turn around and go home because I didn’t get here in time and the food was gone. I did make it to a couple, and they were fantastic. Just fantastic. And it’s just a great way for us to show the world what we can do. And the world you’re entering is ready. The world is ready for us to be open across the street and have a cafe that you’re going to be able to come to and some of you might be working there with us. And wherever you land, you are sharing and spreading the world of possibility that’s made possible by you as the first class to graduate here in Milford”

This was the third culinary class to graduate from the Food Bank of Delaware, but Kanefsky stated that she expected it to be the third of hundreds. Kanefsky also explained that she was the mother of twin sons who were autistic, so she understood that it truly took a village to achieve goals.

“Wow, this is absolutely amazing. Just take a look around see how many people are here. I’m bringing these [tissues] just in case, because when it comes to these students, I’m passionate about what they do and where they’re headed,” John Snarsky, Milford Branch Operations Director, who delivered the keynote speech, said. “Everybody worked really hard to get to this point. And I’m very proud of all of you. I have to say that you are the best part of my day, every day. You guys came into the building every morning and say good morning. Every morning, you came in with the right attitude. You came in with absolutely the heart to achieve your goals. You’ll find out that a lot of people will tell you that you can’t do things, but you’ve got to show them that you can.”

Snarsky pointed out that he had led large teams in his career, but had not seen a team that was so willing to learn as the class graduating from Milford’s campus.

“I am so excited you all passed your certification. So excited that the workforce snagged you up so quickly. But I’ll tell you what, you’re part of the Food Bank family forever. Forever. You will always be welcome,” Snarsky said. “And we are so excited to watch and grow. We’re so excited see you move on in your life and you better come back and say good morning. I am going to keep this short and sweet. One of my sayings, I’ve always said when you’re through learning, you’re through. So don’t ever be through learning. Always continue to learn in your job in life. You’re absolutely amazing. Thank you for letting me be part of your life.”

Tim Hunter, the Executive Chef at the Food Bank of Delaware, explained that the program began about seven years ago as a summer program, but had grown significantly.

“I always said it was my favorite class, because with these guys attitude is everything right? There has never come a day that they are not always happy. You know they were always willing to learn. And you’ve really got to be on your toes. And you really got to be ready for this class. I saw it happen. You know the word that comes to mind really is opportunity. Just really that’s all and all these guys to all they needed was opportunity. Can they work? Absolutely. You know, can they follow through? Absolutely. I’ve seen it. So I’m proud of these guys. And congratulations to you guys.”

As each graduate was presented with their certificates and received a pin on their new white chef jacket, they were given an opportunity to speak to the audience.

“I really want to thank the Food Bank for giving me an opportunity to be able to get a job,” David Giblin said. “I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to get a job again. I want to thank my bosses who are over there for being here to watch me graduate.”

Lashaunda Lynch, who is deaf, spoke to the crowd through her sign language interpreter.

“Thank you for coming. My family and my friends, thank you for coming to see me graduate today. I want to say thanks to everybody who supported me during my journey,” Lynch said. “In my life, I never expected this. So I want to thank you all and I hope you have a wonderful day and God bless.”

Kayla Strohmeyer told everyone that she was so proud of her accomplishments and reminded her fellow graduates that this was the start of a new life for all of them.

“I would like to thank Jonathan for all your help. One day I’ll be bringing you that five star meal. Make sure it looks good and the plating is just right,” Strohmeyer said. “I want to thank Chef Shalisa. She was amazing. I didn’t sign in today, but she stayed on us, made sure we were signed in. To my family members that are here today, right here in the crowd and those who would have been if they were still here with us, my cousin, Shantae and my grandfather. I know they are watching from above. Chef Shalisa, she taught me so much cooking from scratch, I mean I cooked, but never from scratch. She took her time; she was patient with all of us. She got to know what we needed. She met our needs to make sure that everything was in place. Getting started every morning. Every day I did affirmation lifters for everyone. And before we got started, if anybody came in, they was feeling down or needed any consoling before we went into the kitchen, we would begin our day every day with affirmation. Things like I love you and God bless you.”

Janelle West thanked her parents because without them she would not be where she was today. One graduate, Nicole Thomson, could not attend the ceremony, but received a round of applause from those in attendance.

“This was my first class, and I can’t be more proud of and more amazed by this group of people. For those of you that don’t know, most of them are working. And that’s a great thing and a great accomplishment. They came to class every day. They were on time,” Shalisa Alexander, Chief Instructor, said. “I used to teach at Delaware Tech as an adjunct in the culinary department. I had to pull out my old school books, pull out some tricks because every time I taught them something, they mastered it and were like “Chef Shalisa, what else you got.” Some of them, when it was time to go home, they didn’t leave. A couple times I had to push them out of here. They got here before I did. But it was definitely a great experience. I want to give a special thanks to Chef Tim for giving me this opportunity to come and be a part of this wonderful organization. This, by far, has been the most fulfilling position that I have ever, ever had. And I just can’t wait to see where they go.”

Kanefsky closed the ceremony out by speaking to each graduate individually, commending Victoria Rust and Annemarie Roberts, who did not want to speak before the crowd, for smiling and having an impact on others.

“Victoria and Lashaunda work together and Victoria is learning sign language and is going to college, taking a course so that she can actually be the person that’s there for Lashaunda,” Kanefsky said. “It is just beyond what we could ever hope for. So, thank you for being shining examples of what the world can do. It can be good.”

Kanefsky also thanked Strohmeyer for vocalizing what everyone else was thinking.

“You stood up here and you thanked every single person for the role that they played and what they contributed to and then you talk about family again,” Kanefsky said. “Because what a beautiful family you all have. Thank you for letting us be a very small part of your lives and know that you will always be part of the Food Bank family.”

After the ceremony, guests and graduates enjoyed a lunch that included barbecued chicken, pulled pork sliders, beef brisket, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, mixed green salad, ratatouille stuffed mushrooms, banana pudding and chocolate chip cookies, all prepared by the graduating class.









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