NEWARK, Del. — Fresh produce. Scratch-made baked goods. Real, unprocessed food. Count these among the items donated by the University of Delaware’s Dining Services department to local families struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.
When it was announced earlier in March that UD’s residence halls would close for the remainder of the semester to protect the safety of the University community, members of the Dining Services team were left with a surplus of food worth more than $8,000 from three residential dining halls, two food courts and multiple convenience stores and concession stands. They were also left with a glaring question: What to do with it all?
Tossing it? That’s the easiest option — but staff knew such a move would not align with Blue Hen values, which emphasize service to the wider community.
“We’re happy to share our inventory during this uncertain time,” said Stefanie Gilreath, marketing manager for Dining Services, which is managed by Aramark. “Coming together to help — to contribute something positive — is part of UD’s ethos.”
With most students and faculty already off campus, 15 of UD’s chefs, location managers and drivers moved into top gear. They spent four days collecting and sorting enough items to fill three trucks. Then, these items were delivered to Newark’s Christina School District as well as Wilmington’s Emmanuel Dining Room and City of Love Church. Each, in turn, distributed the food to the community.
“The neighborhood people were flabbergasted at the quality,” said City of Love co-pastor Sharee Dorsett. “Typically, when you have food donated, it only has a couple of days left. But these were things you might find in a grocery store.”
With the vegetables and other items that were given to their food pantry, City of Love fed around 500 families in two-and-a-half days. And each of these families went home with a week’s worth of meals.
But members of the community were not the only ones to benefit from UD’s contribution.
“It brings me pride to work for an organization that has the capability — and desire — to help,” Gilreath said. “And it brings me pride to work with a team of people so dedicated to making something like this happen.”
–Diane Stopyra, University of Delaware