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Festival Unveils Breaking Bread Behind Bars

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A groundbreaking culinary event called Breaking Bread Behind Bars will join the lineup of 35 events in May during the 2015 MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival. This dinner is a collaboration between the Delaware Department of Correction, Delaware restaurant group SoDel Concepts, and the MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival to benefit skills training for Delaware offenders and facilitate their reentry to the community. Breaking Bread Behind Bars will be held May 14 inside Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution in New Castle. The concept was initiated by the late Matt Haley, the James Beard Award-winning restaurateur and founder of SoDel Concepts, who approached the Department of Correction and MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival last summer about organizing an event in a Delaware prison. Inspired by inmates who Haley and members of his staff had met through the Department of Correction’s culinary arts training programs, and driven by his own life experiences, he sought to support Delaware’s offender reentry efforts in new ways.

Haley proposed to involve inmates in the preparation of a meal, under the guidance of chefs from SoDel Concepts, then invite them to dine as guests to the meal. The inmates will be seated alongside business and civic leaders who could potentially facilitate employment after their release from incarceration. The MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival agreed to organize the event and market it to business and community leaders. BWCI offers a variety of programs for personal and professional development of inmates at all security levels. It also provides a range of treatment for physical and behavioral healthcare services, vocational training programs, counseling, religious services, and recreation opportunities. Breaking Bread Behind Bars dinner will showcase the state’s expanding initiative to reduce recidivism and increase public safety by supporting the successful reentry of inmates into the community. “Matt Haley was an entrepreneurial success story who credited his own culinary training in prison with giving him the tools and the opportunity to turn his life around,” Gov. Jack Markell said. “I strongly support his call for us all to ‘pay it forward’ by providing second chances to offenders who seek redemption through hard work and gainful employment. We’re committed to expanding existing efforts to connect these individuals with training, employment, and other resources to support their successful reentry to the community, in partnership with social service organizations and with the support of willing Delaware employers. Thanks to this unique opportunity through the MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival, community leaders have one more opportunity to engage with offenders in a unique setting and step up to be change agents in their lives.”

Ajit Mathew George, founder of the MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival, said, “Having worked very closely with Matt Haley last summer on this dinner before his untimely death, I feel strongly about this partnership between the MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival, the Delaware Department of Correction and SoDel Concepts, and bringing Matt’s dream to reality with Breaking Bread Behind Bars. I am not aware of any wine and food festival in the world that has created a dinner inside a prison with inmates joining as guests alongside business and civic leaders. My wife and I purchased the first two tickets to this dinner today and we cannot wait to sit with our friends in the business community behind bars for this remarkable dinner.” Tickets are $150 and are being made available by invitation only through the MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival. Members of the general public who are interested in purchasing a ticket to attend the dinner and support reentry programs and culinary arts training can join the wait list on the festival website at www.mawff.org or contact Amy Dance at the MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival, at 332-3788. 

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