‘Most of the people . . . are working poor’: Pantry sees increased use

April 28, 2023

Jon DeVoll has  been an active volunteer at the Cape Henlopen Food Basket for more than two decades. These days, he’s not only board president of the not-for-profit agency, he also remains true to his roots: he’s involved in the operation that serves about 200 families each month.

The Food Bank of Delaware works with a statewide network of community partners like the Cape Henlopen Food Basket, and although each site serves neighbors dealing with food insecurity, each is unique.

Cape Henlopen Food Basket is located in Rehoboth Beach, a coastal resort community known for its gourmet dining scene, vacation homes, and boutique shops. That affluent community also supports this food pantry, DeVoll emphasizes. “We are very fortunate. We are supported by the Ministry of the Lewes and Rehoboth – previously the Lewes Rehoboth Church Association – their thrift store. And we’re always getting donations – food and financial,” he said.

While some of the pantry’s food is sourced from the Food Bank of Delaware, there’s also a volunteer food rescue team that gets fresh fruit and vegetables from local markets to provide from families who visit the pantry. “We haven’t lost volunteers,” DeVoll said.

In addition, CHFB shares the bounty with other pantries. “We are able to give help to Love Inc. in Seaford and the Shepherd House. We are not struggling, so we help other food outlets, our neighbors at Community Resource Center, the Epworth UMC operations, Christian Storehouse,” he added.

Just as it impacted most of our society, the COVID-19 pandemic changed CHFB operations. Before the pandemic, the pantry served about 170-200 families each month. DeVoll said he was surprised that number dropped significantly during the pandemic. Of course, there were safety precautions – per COVID protocol – to keep volunteers and clients safe and healthy. For example, people in need could no longer enter the pantry itself to “shop.” They are able to see what’s available – in terms of vegetables, breads, and household supplies – through a plexiglass window. And each family receives bagged food and frozen meats; the quantity is based on household size.

Prior to the pandemic, CHFB service area was limited to the Cape Henlopen School District; the pandemic expanded that to Delaware residents. Most people who come for food are local though, but maybe traveling as far as from Millsboro. In 2022, the CHFB distributed 5,357 food allotments – two weeks’ worth of groceries – to families and individuals.

DeVoll speculates the decline in clients was because the state expanded SNAP benefits. That’s changed; pandemic benefits expired. The pantry now serves as many people as it did prior to the pandemic. “Most of the people who come and need help are the working poor,” DeVoll said.

The pantry is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but closes at noon on Fridays during the summer.

Visit www.fbd.org to learn more about our partners, and www.capehleopemfoodbasket.org to learn more about this emergency food outlet.


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