GEORGETOWN - Bill Super of Selbyville always remembers to bring his box cutter.
The simple tool is as critical to the mission as his fellow volunteers to keep food moving to those in need.
Toby French of Seaford was among the volunteers Tuesday, as a helping hand and the chairman of Delaware Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.
They were part of a small army of volunteers who joined Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg, U.S. Sen. Chris Coons and U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, both D-Del., Tuesday at the Food Bank of Delaware’s 43rd large-scale food distribution event since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020.
“I just started this last fall. It was quite a peak back then,” said Mr. Super, a 74-year-old retiree who moved to Delaware from Maryland 12 years ago. “I feel like I am very fortunate, so this is a tiny little way to give back. I do food donations as well. I have a place in Maryland, so I drop off at the Maryland Food Bank.”
"We (Delaware VOAD) are an umbrella and we try to coordinate responses to disasters,” Mr. French said. “We just try to coordinate and collaborate when one of these disasters hits."
The monthly Sussex County event, staged at the spacious Crossroad Community Church campus near Georgetown, was about feeding a need that existed long before the pandemic and raising food insecurity awareness.
“We want to make sure we can continue to meet the hunger response that has existed since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Chad Robinson, Food Bank of Delaware’s community mobile pantry/senior nutrition coordinator.
“While we know that folks are getting vaccinated and things are getting back to normal, we know there are thousands of Delaware families that are still struggling with food insecurity. Even before the pandemic, there were approximately 105,000 food-insecure Delawareans. These are folks who were unsure where their next meal was going to come from.”
At the height of the pandemic last year, the number of food-insecure Delawareans jumped from 105,000 to 140,000, Food Bank of Delaware CEO/President Cathy Kanefsky said.
“Thankfully our leaders in Washington … they brought so much relief to us,” Ms. Kanefsky said. “Now that we are in recovery, Feeding America estimates that in 2021 there will more than 114,000 Delawareans who need food. So, we’re not going back to where we were before.”
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the Food Bank of Delaware has distributed more than 21 million pounds of food. Put in perspective, a typical year is about 8 to 10 million, Ms. Kanefsky said.
“The pandemic shed a light quite honestly on how many of our neighbors are one paycheck away from needing the assistance of the Food Bank. But sadly, we know so many of those friends that have come through these lines have been here before and were hungry before the pandemic,” Ms. Kanefsky said.
Mr. Berg, whose stop in Delaware was part of a five-week national tour, applauded the Food Bank’s effort and support from Congress to confront food insecurity and poverty in an effort to stamp out hunger in America.
“My message is that charities such as the Food Bank of Delaware need to be supported by the public. We are also grateful that Congress significantly increased funding, including commodities,” said Mr. Berg. “But we also need to understand that charity alone cannot solve this problem. I want to emphasize the importance of public policy, of government’s action.”
“The reality is we are stronger when we do it together,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester. “We will continue to be on the battlefield to make sure that we end hunger, that we end poverty.”
Mr. Berg noted that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly the food stamp program, in February 2021 aided 112,425 Delaware residents. Increased benefits during the pandemic occurred because of public policy, he emphasized.
Rep. Blunt Rochester spoke from personal family experience on the value of food stamp assistance.
“As somebody whose dad had to put us on food stamps when he was a college student and had three young daughters, I can tell you that SNAP and these benefits can create an engineer like my sister Thea, a professor like my sister Marla, and a congresswoman, like me,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester.
“It’s not just about giving somebody a fish here. It is truly about jobs and agriculture and food and nutrition and schools. It is truly about community,” Rep. Blunt Rochester added.
“Hunger is not new to America or Delaware. If kids don’t eat, it’s hard to learn. If seniors are in homes where they can’t get access to food, it’s hard for them to live. If we as a country, both from an economic standpoint and a moral standpoint, don’t see the significance of being fed in this country, then we don’t get it. I know one thing – this group (Food Bank and volunteers) gets it. We can’t just do something today and then forget about it tomorrow. We’ve got to sustain it.”
Sen. Coons agreed.
“There are more hungry people in our state and our country than we may see, than we may recognize and that we should ever accept,” he said. “As Lisa pointed out, if your children are hungry, parents can’t focus. If you’re a hungry child, you can’t focus in school.
“As we are seeing the pandemic begin to end … as the pandemic begins to trend downward, we need to confront the reality that we have enough food ‘waste' - wasted food - to feed every hungry child, to feed every hungry Delawarean.
“We’ve got folks lined up right now and they will benefit from the funding that we fought for, along with Sen. (Thomas) Carper in the American Rescue Plan to dramatically increase what USDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is making available.”
“We want to remind people this is still a very serious problem,” Mr. Berg said. “It was here before the pandemic. Unless we raise wages, make health care and child care more affordable … it will still be here. We need to support the charities, but we also need continued, improved public policy to finally end hunger in America.
“We are the only industrialized Western nation on the planet that has anything close to this level of hunger and poverty. We are a great enough nation to fix it.”
The Food Bank of Delaware banks on the support of the Department of Transportation, Delaware State Police and volunteer organizations and individuals.
Ms. Kanefsky applauded the many familiar faces of volunteers who have been there in snow, sleet, ice, and oppressive heat and rain. “And yet you come back, and you stay, and you put food in people’s cars because you know that’s what you are here for, and we thank you so much,” Ms. Kanefsky said.
Mr. Super sees it as a way to break routine and do something for the benefit of others.
“When you see everything, from a combination of the news to COVID, you’re like, ‘Let me get away from that and do something good.’ It’s very rewarding, and very organized,” he said. “And I learned long ago … to bring my own box cutter.”