Meet Cathy Kanefsky, CEO of Food Bank of Delaware

A total of 12.6% of Delawareans are food insecure, according to the CDC. At Food Bank of Delaware, president and CEO Cathy Kanefsky is on a mission to change that.

Cathy Kanefsky has been the president and CEO of Food Bank of Delaware for barely two years, but she has already had a major impact on how the charitable organization operates and the scope of what it offers. This includes a new center in Middletown, education in food service for the unemployed and a food-waste program that salvages groceries that would otherwise be thrown away. Under her leadership, the organization has almost doubled to about 100 staff members and hundreds of volunteers. Here, Kanefsky shares what’s on the horizon.

Answers have been edited for brevity.

You’ve been in nonprofits almost all of your career. How did that evolve?

My husband and I had twins who were born four months early, and I stayed at home for 1 1/2 years after that. My first job in nonprofits was with the March of Dimes, which was doing work that was very close to my heart, and I was there for 13 years. As it turns out, the twins were autistic, so I became involved with Autism Speaks and then was chief development officer for the Nemours Fund for Children’s Health.

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You say you were hesitant at first to take the Food Bank leadership role. Why was that?

A friend urged me to seek the job, but I told him [the places] I had worked previously were all very personal to me. I had never experienced food insecurity. My friend told me just to take away the word “food.” Everyone is insecure in one way or another. We never know what tomorrow will bring. It was an unexpected turn in my career, but it turned out to be just what I needed.

What’s happening with the Food Bank in Milford?

It will be about 67,000 square feet—almost equal in size to our Newark facility, which serves as a warehouse, commercial kitchen and a center for workforce development as well as having a 5-acre garden. We’ve become recently a lot more involved downstate, but most things come out of Newark. Milford will help us relieve that strain. It should be open later this year.

From left: Bashirah Harris, CEO Cathy Kanefsky and Chaniz Curry get to work at Food Bank of Delaware with chef Chris Montgomery (rear). In addition to its Newark location, the Food Bank will be expanding to Middletown with a 67,000-square-foot facility opening later this year.
From left: Bashirah Harris, CEO Cathy Kanefsky and Chaniz Curry get to work at Food Bank of Delaware with chef Chris Montgomery (rear). In addition to its Newark location, the Food Bank will be expanding to Middletown with a 67,000-square-foot facility opening later this year.

What is the 302 Food Rescue initiative?

[It] is an app that volunteers can download and which they can use to help us gather and distribute goods that have almost expired on grocers’ shelves but [are] still good. We’re working with [both] large supermarkets [and] small grocers. When a grocer has produce that’s about to expire, someone with our app will get a text and, if they are available at the time, go pick the food up. The app will tell them where to deliver it, which is often to food pantries that are smaller than us. That means the Food Bank doesn’t have to be in the loop for every pickup and delivery.

With an organization like yours, how do you measure success?

It used to be that we measured in pounds of food distributed, which sounds good—we had 17 million pounds distributed last year. But it doesn’t tell the real story. We need to talk more about numbers of meals or families or households served. During the pandemic, people would line up in their cars for hours at a pickup place. That got us to thinking more about how many families we provide[d] food for.

What does Food Bank need most?

We always need financing—especially with all of our new programs—and food donations. What we really need, though, are volunteers at all levels. That means salaries we don’t have to pay.

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For more information or to volunteer, visit fbd.org.

Related: Great Spots for Older Adults to Volunteer in Delaware

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