Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana celebrated some of its nearly $5 million in improvements Wednesday morning with a ribbon cutting and guided tours of the 999 E. Tillman Road facility.
The campaign began two years ago. Last year, Community Harvest distributed 11 million pounds of food to nine counties. This year, it will serve 12.5 million pounds. Community Harvest is the largest hunger relief organization in northeast Indiana, distributing food to 430 human-service agencies and churches in its agency network. It reaches 21,100 unique clients per week.
Jane Avery, executive director of the food bank, stressed the agency still needs to raise another $740,000 to complete the $5 million campaign. That money will go toward replacing an aging fleet of delivery trucks and a maintenance fund to keep buildings in top shape.
The newly improved areas of the building include the expanded community cupboard, which tripled in size and now has a 900-foot walk-in cooler that is used both for storage and for restocking items right into the back of the store display refrigerator unit.
SeniorPak – a biweekly grocery delivery program for homebound, limited-income seniors – has expanded to 4,000 square feet from 1,000. Bill Hoover, operations manager with Community Harvest, said when the program started in 1999, it served 200 seniors in Allen County. The program has since grown to cover all nine counties in northeast Indiana and serves about 1,000 clients.
One of the largest improvements in the warehouse is a new 5,000-square-foot cooler/ freezer. To make the warehouse more user-friendly, rear freight doors were installed so trucks can unload right into the back area near the freezer. This saves workers steps in getting the food into cold storage. The new cooler/freezer cost $400,000.
Hoover said the new refrigeration units have cut back some of the space in the warehouse, but the storage racks and reclamation area were reconfigured to be more space efficient, and items not immediately needed are stored in the North Coliseum Boulevard warehouse, where there is plenty of space.
The food bank has also gone a little green. Architect Kelly Shields of Design Collaborative said energy-efficient lights have been installed that work on timers in the warehouse. During the night the lights turn off and only the security lights remain on. Upstairs in the office area, sensors have been added that turn the lights on when a person walks into a room and off when they leave.
Environmental paints were used in the project as well.
Hoover said one of the big pluses has been installation of a generator. Now power losses won’t turn into food losses.
“When the June 29 storm came through, we were still up and running and we were able to help other organizations store their produce,” said Hoover on the storm that toppled hundreds of trees and left more than 78,000 people without power, some for nearly a week.
Other improvements include an expansion of the kids backpack staging area and a new phone system for the building. Phase II of the project will focus on the Coliseum facility. That project will include expanded refrigeration and dry storage and a blanch-chill-freeze space to extend the life of fresh produce.