By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator
At the Food Bank of Delaware, like all businesses and agencies, we almost live and die by the numbers: how many tons of food, how many community partners, how many volunteer hours, how many dollars, how many children we serve.
Sometimes we fail to notice things that can’t be counted or measured or quantified, and sometimes those are our real successes.
Take for example, a program earlier this week that brought students enrolled in the National Migrant Education Program to the Food Bank’s Culinary School kitchen in Milford.
These are children whose parents work in the agricultural industry, behind the scenes doing heavy and dirty work, picking and packing fruit and vegetables. Their families move to follow the growing season.
Some students can’t even finish the 6-week program because their parents’ work here is complete; Delaware has a short growing season.
At the start of the day, each kid got a paper chef’s toque, then went to our commercial kitchen, and worked in teams led by our culinary students. So in a matter of minutes, our students became teachers.
Our teachers, Executive Chef Tim and Chef Instructor Tish, kept watchful eyes on the process, a hubbub of activity.
Just like the cooking competitions on the Food Network, each team had to plan a menu incorporating food their parents helped bring to market. Then it was game on! They had limited time to prepare the meal.
By husking, chopping, mixing, and baking, they could see how their parents’ work is a vital contribution to the food service industry.
Fresh, local produce, plus chicken donated by Perdue, made for a tasty, appealing lunch.
Judging by how many kids (and adults) returned to the kitchen for second and third helpings, everyone did a great job, and there was something for everyone, ranging from a watermelon drink to chicken coated with Cheeto’s ®.
By the end of the day after the kids prepared their lunches, ate hearty and healthy meals (including seconds and thirds), they also left with some cherished memories.
Who knows what the long-term, and maybe life-long impact, the positive experiences of this day will have on these kids?
Who knows which kids might have gained more confidence, which ones learned how to communicate and work together on a team to accomplish a goal, which ones tried a new or different food?
It’s not something we can count or measure, but at the Food Bank we’re pretty sure that our programs have countless positive impacts we never see. We know they’re there.
So, in this election year, when life-enhancing programs go under the microscope (or even the chopping block) because some politicians deem them frivolous or too expensive, we have to ask: how can you put a dollar value on a happy childhood experience? And isn’t teaching kids (and adults) how to prepare a meal a hand up and not a hand out?
Some day one of these kids may be preparing nourishing meals for their own family or they may become a chef. Who knows?