Daryl Walker is home when he’s at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.
“This is where I started, and it felt good to come back,” he said recently, while standing in the food bank’s production kitchen. “This is my home.”
Daryl is the FoodBank’s Production Manager, supervising a team that prepares food every day for distribution through our Child Nutrition programs.
But, before Daryl started – and then came back – to the food bank, he had a lot to overcome.
“Both my parents were on drugs,” he said. “And my dad died when I was 13. I started to sell drugs when I was about ten because we didn’t have food.”
Growing up, Daryl was in and out of prison. He went into a halfway house in 2010 – and they told him about the FoodBank’s free cooking school, the Food Service Training Academy.
He applied, was accepted, and graduated at the top of his class in 2012. While in the program, he learned kitchen skills and food safety – and some things that aren’t in a textbook.
“I learned discipline,” he said. “Every morning, I had to catch a train and a bus to get to the program on time. I learned how to be patient and I learned how to work with people.”
And, he learned self-worth.
“I didn’t think I was going to live past 21,” he admits. “Once I got to the FoodBank, I learned I had more to offer.
And now – more than ten years after he graduated – Daryl is home at the food bank, but he’s also branching out. In addition to being the production manager, he has opened his own catering company and a line of seasonings that he sells online.
“The food bank gave me a shot,” he said. “And I showed them who I really was.”