Kitchen School’s first Milford grads inspire family, friends, teachers

July 13, 2023

Members of The Food Bank of Delaware’s first Kitchen School class in Milford graduated on Thursday, July 13. They are in front, from left: Kayla Strohmeyer, Cassandra Dickey, Lashaunda Lynch, and Victoria Rust. In back from left are Marie Frazier, Specialized Training Coordinator; Annmarie Roberts; David Giblin; Jonathan Valdez, Specialized Training Associate, Janelle West and Chef Instructor Shalisa Alexander.

Today was a day of celebration at the Food Bank of Delaware in Milford. Graduation ceremonies for students who have completed The Kitchen School featured all the pomp and circumstances associated with a significant occasion: certificates, speeches, applause, a few tears of joy – and lunch.

The graduates are: Cassandra Dickey, David Giblin, Lashaunda Lynch, Annemarie Roberts, Victoria Rust, Kayla Strohmeyer, Nicole Thomson, and Janelle West.

The Kitchen School – offered at both our Newark and Milford sites – is a free 12-week food service training program designed for adults with disabilities. The Kitchen School represents a partnership between the Delaware Restaurant Association and the Food Bank in collaboration with teachers and counselors specializing in work with individuals with disabilities. Students spend  eight weeks at the Food Bank kitchen learning kitchen safety and sanitation and cooking skills; after that, an additional four weeks is spent transitioning to permanent employment through on-site job coaching.

Food Bank President and CEO Cathy Kanefsky praised the students for their accomplishments. “We are so proud of you. The world is ready for you,” she said. She also praised staff who support the program. “It takes a village.”

John Snarsky, the Food Bank’s Milford Branch operations director, told students to build on their successes. “People may say you can’t do something, but you can. You worked hard to get here,” he said.

Some of the students also spoke proudly of their achievements. David Giblin noted his sense of success. “I never thought I’d get a job again,” he said.

Kayla Strohmeyer commented on the new friendships forged through the Kitchen School experience. “This is the start of our lives, and we’re a family forever,” she said.

Chef Instructor Shalisa Alexander also praised her new proteges. “I can’t be prouder and more amazed. This is the most fulfilling position I’ve ever had. I know what they are capable of,” she noted.

Kitchen School staff assists students in finding partner employers, and students and employers receive support for at least one year after graduation. Most of these new graduates are already working in local restaurants.

The next Milford Kitchen School class will begin in February when the Food Bank’s new facility opens.

Visit for more information about this program and offered by the Food Bank of Delaware.

(Not pictured: Nicole Thomson)

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