UD assists Food Bank of Delaware in fight against hunger
Patricia Beebe, right, president and CEO of the Food Bank of Delaware, at the Spring Fling with Newark Mayor Vance Funk, center, and Robin Morgan, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
A Spring Fling visitor checks out the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens table.

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8:01 a.m., April 7, 2010----The number of Delawareans seeking food assistance is at an unprecedented high, according to a study released in February by the Food Bank of Delaware and Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization.

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To assist with the increased need for emergency food assistance, UD's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and the Food Bank of Delaware (FBD) have teamed together to identify pockets of poverty throughout the First State.

Under the direction of Rhonda Hyde, associate professor of food and resource economics, four operations research graduate students generated sub-maps of Delaware categorizing the food assistance needs of different geographical regions. In order to collect this data, the students used census tracking and the GIS database.

Guang Xiao, a master's student in operations research, said, “I learned a lot about how to provide sound solutions to real world problems in a managerial setting. After a fair amount of trial and error, we were able to provide recommendations to help the Food Bank create more efficient food distribution patterns.”

With the aid of Don Berry, education associate with the Delaware Department of Education, the student-based team was able to provide a large poster-sized map indicating the number of people at or below the poverty level in the entire state. In conjunction with the large map were a series of smaller maps that gave more detailed information about the specific areas with the most need.

The Food Bank plans to take this information and establish ties with local service agencies in order to optimize food distribution in low-income communities.

Charlotte McGarry, Food Bank of Delaware logistics and program director, said, “It is our goal to identify if there are any gaps in food assistance and, if so, do direct distributions of product from FBD or partner with hunger relief organizations to provide food to those communities. Ultimately, the FBD staff identified the level of knowledge, time and funding to execute such a project was not within the resources of our current staff and budget, therefore, when presented with this partnership opportunity from Dr. Hyde and her students we graciously accepted the much needed assistance.”

“The University is committed to improving the quality of life for all Delawareans,” Hyde said. “This project is an example of that commitment. We were more than pleased to have the opportunity to assist the Food Bank with its efforts to eliminate hunger in Delaware. The four graduate students who worked on this project persevered despite numerous setbacks in obtaining usable data. Their reward is knowing that their work will make a difference.”

This project is just one of many bringing together CANR and the Food Bank of Delaware.

Last year, UD dedicated part of its 350-acre agro-ecology teaching complex at the college as a Garden for the Community. In 2009, the garden produced more than three tons of fresh produce, which was donated directly to the Food Bank.

In March, CANR and the Food Bank of Delaware jointly hosted a “Think Spring Fling” event to jumpstart the spring community garden season. Approximately 100 garden lovers, UD staff and students, and community members enjoyed an array of educational displays and an eclectic selection of gourmet soups and seasonal breads, provided by the Food Bank's Culinary School.

“We knew that there was a Garden for the Community, but we weren't quite sure where it was,” said James Stokes, a sophomore hotel, restaurant, and institutional management major and member of UD's Slow Foods student organization. “After attending this event, Slow Foods definitely wants to get more involved in agriculture side of things.”

The evening was a huge success, bringing in approximately $2,000 and 532 pounds of non perishable food items to the Food Bank.

Newark Mayor Vance A. Funk III said, “The partnership between CANR and the Food Bank is outstanding. These fundraisers are well attended and well appreciated. I would say that this is one of the best partnerships in our community.”

For more information, visit the Garden for the Community Web site.

To learn more about backyard gardening, a wallet friendly way to get fresh produce, Slow Foods and the New Castle County Master Gardeners will be holding a “Backyard Garden: Seed to Table” lecture series May 10-11. These lectures will teach community members how to utilize fresh vegetables in their homes and the best ways to plant and raise a backyard garden. Both events will be held from 6-8 p.m. at Marriott's Courtyard Newark-University of Delaware on campus. Those who plan to attend should RSVP by April 30 to [del@slowfoodusa.org].

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