The Food Bank of Delaware relies on 536 community partners statewide to help meet the needs of food-insecure Delawareans. According to Feeding America’s 2019 Map the Meal Gap study, our state’s food insecurity rate is 12.2 percent, slightly higher than the 12 percent rate last year.
One of our newest partners, Community Resource Center in Rehoboth Beach, partnered with the Food Bank to better serve the state’s resort-area residents. Feeding America’s most recent study determined that 9.8 percent of Sussex Countians, or 21,000 people, are food insecure, and 17.2 percent of Sussex County children, or 7,150 kids, fall into that category. In fact, this year’s Kids Count in Delaware study found that 20.1 percent of Kent and Sussex County children live in poverty.
While many state residents and seasonal visitors perceive the Rehoboth Beach area as wealthy, Jo Allegro-Smith, the center’s director, realizes that for many area residents tourism provides only seasonal employment opportunities.
“This is an unusual environment. We have impoverished areas in a place that is seen as a retirement destination and a resort, where people see a lot of affluence. But we do have a huge population living in poverty. This is a seasonal town. People aren’t getting wages in the off season, so we [the resource center] are busiest from November through March,” she said.
“We are trying to create awareness.”
The need for food assistance exists! And while the Community Resource Center does not duplicate the service provided by its neighbor, the Cape Henlopen Food Basket [another Food Bank of Delaware partner], the center distributes 2,000 meal bags through a food rescue program and the dedication of loyal volunteers.
In addition, last summer the center provided local, mostly neighboring, children with 1,750 meals by partnering with the Food Bank’s Grab ‘n Go program.
Smith recognizes too that this center is a blessing to young families, over 100 of them, who are served by a Baby Pantry twice each month.
In addition, there are other problems linked to food insecurity. “There is a lack of affordable housing,” Smith said. “Our workforce is unable to live in the town where they work. In the past, they might have gone to Milton or Millsboro, but now it’s Ellendale and Greenwood.”
And that leads to yet another problem: transportation. “There is no robust public transportation system, so we have a perfect storm of circumstances,” Smith said.
The Community Resource Center often connects with other volunteer-based social service agencies, including Love Inc. and Epworth U.M. Church, to meet local residents’ needs. In addition to food, clients often receive budget and/ or pre-employment counseling.
“It gives us the capacity to help people through a variety of programs. That’s one of the great things about our community. We are all sharing,” Smith said.
“Most people come in for a short period of time. There have been conversations about people taking advantage, but I don’t see that. People are very grateful here,” Smith said.
Visit www.fbd.org to learn more about other Food Bank of Delaware partnerships and programs, and also to find out how you can help.