Monday, October 4, 2010

The Market - a Program of the Food Bank of Delaware

What do you get when you put an innovative food bank together with the need for less expensive foods in a low-income "food desert?"  The answer is The Market!

As Ed Matarese, contact person for The Market, (and Facilities and Fleet Director, and our host at the Food Bank of Delaware) explained, The Market was originally colocated with the food bank's Newark facility.  But in that location, it was not serving its intended population.  Therefore, The Market was moved to a low-income community in Wilmington, where it is housed in the Catholic Charities Thrift Shop.

The Market is open a few hours a day, Tuesday-Friday. Its small room (perhaps 15 x 15 ft) contains items such as spaghetti sauce, pasta, canned vegetables, diapers, and household cleaning supplies, as well as a few refrigerated and frozen items such as ground beef and turkey, bacon, eggs and milk.  All items are bought at wholesale rates through the food bank and are sold at wholesale cost plus 10-15% to cover transportation costs.  Shoppers may use cash or their SNAP electronic benefit cards for food items.

JoAnne Hawkins, the principal volunteer, runs the store, handles sales, and keeps everything neat and clean.  The day we volunteered there, she put us to work cleaning shelves and dusting.  JoAnne keeps track of stock and when her supplies get low, orders more. Although the number of customers is not high, many of those who use The Market depend on it, as getting to the nearest full grocery store is difficult.

As with many hunger-related programs, JoAnne gives much more than food.  She knows many of her customers by name, understands their individual situations, and has an easy chair next to the desk for them to use if they want to chat.  As she listens to their situations, she may refer them to other agencies such as Kingswood Community Center, across the street, where they might get help with outstanding bills and other needs.

Plans are underway to add a similar market to the Milford branch of the Food Bank of Delaware as it expands to meet the needs of the southern counties.

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