Doreen Webb likes to say she’s the oldest student in the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School class. The Seaford resident is 61 years old and a cancer survivor whose journey included several surgeries as well. Age is no obstacle for this student; she’s challenging herself to embrace new experiences.
Webb, who came to Delaware by way of the U.S. Air Force (Her father was a career military man who was transferred from Iowa to Dover Air Force Base.) has worked as a cashier and in housekeeping, and with her husband – a retired pharmacist – is a parent of three adult sons.
Life changed in 2007 when she was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and needed a mastectomy. “I had invasive breast cancer, and my body fell apart. The doctors kept pushing, and finally the drugs kicked in,” she said.
Her drive is evident as a culinary student; she’s developed education and career goals. After graduating in April, she will start additional culinary training in June at Delaware Technical Community College’s Terry Campus. “I have an inside drive. I’m sure I’ll be at least 65 when I graduate, but I love to learn,” said Webb.
The Food Bank’s Culinary Schools – one in Milford and one in Newark – offer a 14-week workforce development education that provides students with classroom and commercial kitchen training, plus a paid two-week paid work experience. Students also have the opportunity to become ServSafe ® certified. The program is one piece of the Food Bank’s mission to provide long-term solutions to hunger and food insecurity through its Delaware Food Works workforce development initiative.
“This program has really helped me,” Webb said. “Initially I was so overwhelmed I wasn’t able to focus. I had no confidence, but I got used to it. I’m overcoming my shyness and my clumsiness. I completed the assignment of making a complete meal by myself. That was my goal.”
Webb said she cooked pork chops, deep-fried vegetables and vegetables cooked in a roux sauce. “It turned out really good,” she added. “I’m inspired by my mother, my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law. I’m an avid cook, and I want to learn to cook better.”
In addition to enjoying the class, this experience has helped Webb set personal goals. “I want to keep my options open. I’m a quiet person, and I don’t want to be a boss or supervisor. I’m interested in fitness and nutrition, so maybe I’ll become a dietitian. Anything is possible,” Webb said.
“I’m really looking forward to graduation, no matter what age I am.”
Click here to learn more about the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School and other workforce development programs.