It was a proud moment for the Food Bank of Delaware on the morning of Friday, June 21, 2019.
The agency’s brand new, 80,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art food bank—complete with two enormous, walk-in coolers, a freezer, a huge staging area, a cafe, and greenhouses containing locally grown vegetables like tomatoes and peppers—is a symbol of modernity and creativity.
Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) was one of the lucky 200-plus guests to receive an invitation to the facility’s grand opening ceremony. IRUSA has been a strong supporter of the organization, having awarded grants to the agency. U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware), the first lady of Delaware, and various county officials were among the honored guests and speakers.
Coons, for one, mentioned the importance of having food available for children to help them learn better. That is a goal that IRUSA and the food bank have long-supported.
Last October, IRUSA awarded the food bank a $25,000 grant for its food backpacks program, which helps prevent students from going hungry on weekends, when school is not in session and access to lunch is unavailable. During the 2017-18 school year, the last year for which statistics were immediately available, the program provided school bags to nearly 6,000 pupils.
Like the food bank, IRUSA also has funded summer feeding programs throughout the country, helping kids from low-income households get the lunch for which they would otherwise lack access. The food bank also did its share, as it distributed nearly 60,000 meals through its Grab-and-Go Program.
The level and scope of the food bank’s work is admirable. Last year, the food bank received more than 8 million pounds of food. It distributed 1.2 million pounds of meat, and 1.8 million pounds of produce through various partners, which include soup kitchens, shelters, schools, among other entities.
While giving food to those in need is one of its main missions, it is clear that the food bank also is focused on empowering its beneficiaries by providing essential life skills. It offers a culinary class that allows former inmates to learn how to cook. The café provides job opportunities in the retail and food preparation sectors. And, the greenhouses enable those interested to learn basic farming.
The new headquarters even includes a Healthy Pantry Center, enabling individuals to choose the foods best suited for them and their families.
The ultimate goal behind these programs is to help families in need to become self-reliant and not continually depend on food banks to fulfill their nutritional needs. It’s yet another example of the goals Islamic Relief USA shares with the organization: to empower, to provide relief with dignity, and to make sure the voices of those in need are heard.
IRUSA looks to strengthen its already healthy relationship with the Food Bank of Delaware through future volunteer projects. The two heads of the IRUSA’s Volunteers Department, Said Durrah and Masouna Kochaji, were among those who joined the 120-mile bus ride from IRUSA’s headquarters near Washington, D.C., to the food bank.
Increasing food security remains one of IRUSA’s major goals. Together, with another well-resourced entity like the Food Bank of Delaware, both organizations can collectively make an important difference in the world.