Commentary: Food Bank ready to meet the needs of Delawareans

By Rep. Ed Osienski

When the Food Bank of Delaware headquarters was at its former Newark location, I was pleased to serve as its state representative, an honor I did not take lightly. I had the unique opportunity to see firsthand the impact it had across the state of Delaware in helping those experiencing food insecurity.

Rep. Ed Osienski

Even though it has moved out of my district, my admiration for the its efforts have not lessened.

During the past five months though, I have grown to appreciate the Food Bank of Delaware and its contributions to the health and well-being of Delawareans even more. The team has been on the front lines of COVID-19’s devastating economic impact since March, and it’s expected that an additional 50,000 Delawareans will be food insecure this year due to the pandemic.

Despite these increased demands, the Food Bank of Delaware is well-positioned to meet the nutritional needs of Delawareans.

This was not always the case though.

Back in 2016, the Food Bank leadership team came to me with its plans and vision to relocate to a larger facility. The organization had outgrown its 42,000-square-foot facility on Garfield Way and no longer had the capacity to meet the needs of Delaware’s food insecure. Space limitation hindered donations and there wasn’t space to house an on-site food pantry. Many delivery drivers refused to back into its difficult-to-access loading dock. As a result, the Food Bank missed out on thousands of pounds of donations.

In the midst of this economic and health crisis, I am thankful that my legislative colleagues and so many generous Delaware businesses, foundations and individuals stepped up to help ensure that the Food Bank had the needed $15.5 million to retrofit its new headquarters.

The state of Delaware’s investment of more than $1.5 million in the Food Bank’s new facility is paying dividends now. Thanks to the Food Bank’s new 80,000-square-foot facility, the organization has the capacity and improved infrastructure to ensure that more than 171,000 food-insecure Delawareans have access to foods during this difficult time.

Since Delaware’s first COVID-19 case in mid-March, the Food Bank of Delaware has:

• Distributed more than 7 million pounds of shelf-stable and fresh foods to Delawareans in need. Comparatively, in all of fiscal 2019, the organization distributed 8.6 million pounds of food.

• Accepted 6.7 million pounds of donated food for Delaware families.

• Served more than 13,000 families through the Healthy Pantry Centers at its Newark and Milford facilities.

• Distributed 53,488 meal kits to children at risk of hunger through the Backpack Program.

• Distributed 53,750 fresh food boxes through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

• Served 17,664 households at 12 drive-thru distributions.

I am proud of the incredible work done by the Food Bank of Delaware during this unprecedented time. Its work, alongside the incredible contributions of medical professionals and first responders, has ensured our communities have been able to persevere in these difficult times.

While we know that this pandemic is far from over and the worst may not be behind us, I am confident that the Food Bank of Delaware will continue to be there to support our friends and neighbors. All of us should be proud of the incredible work that it is doing each day and in investments made by the state of Delaware in this essential organization.

Ed Osienski is a Democrat serving the 24th District in the House of Representatives,