The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation donated $8.2 million for construction of the new facility, with a required community match of about $1.5 million. Local company Dermody Properties donated $200,000 as its first “Capstone Gift,” an annual donation to a community organization. The $200,000 will complete the community match money needed to secure the grant and open the facility.
“Part of our responsibility is to share our success with the community,” said chairman and CEO Michael Dermody. “The food bank is the cornerstone of charitable food distribution for our community. Dermody’s first Capstone Gift is dedicated to the food bank. It is because of the employee’s dedication and hard work that we’re able to give.”
The new Donald W. Reynolds Regional Food Distribution Center near the Tracy power station east of Sparks will be 60,000 square-feet — more than 15 times the size of the food bank’s original facility that opened in 1983.
The expanded space for dry, refrigerated and frozen goods will enable the food bank to distribute 6 million pounds of food a year. The food bank works with more than 100 partner agencies that directly distribute the food.
A downturn in the economy, however, has resulted in more than greater need in the community. And donations to the food bank have not matched the need this year. Empty stomachs and bare warehouse shelves could make for a bleak holiday.
“We are just over 50 percent of last year’s total,” said food bank marketing director Doris Phelps. “By this time of year, we should be at 80 percent. It’s the same story everywhere — food drives are down.”
The food bank also runs the Kids Cafe before- and after-school food programs, a commodity supplemental food program primarily for seniors, nutrition education programs and backpacks filled with food to feed needy children during the weekends.
“This new facility will belong to the community,” said Cherie Jamason, president and CEO of the food bank. “We are continuing our efforts to create a place to live that’s free of hunger, particularly hunger in children.”
The five-year-old facility in a Sparks warehouse on Packer Way enables the food bank to distribute about 4.5 million pounds of food per year. The new facility is expected to hold and distribute a total of 6 million pounds of food each year — or enough food to make about five million more meals annually.
The warehouse will hold twice as much dry goods storage, three times the refrigerator space, seven times the freezer space, and more room for dairy products, perishable foods and places to break repackage large donations into smaller food packages, Jamason said.
“The new facility will be the headquarters for the effort to reduce and eliminate hunger in northern Nevada,” Jamason said. “Nothing is more fundamental to our lives, our health and our communities than ensuring children, seniors and working people have access to the food they need to survive and thrive.”
Last fiscal year, volunteers contributed more than 8,000 hours of work, equivalent to hiring four full-time employees, to sort and package the donated food.
Besides the food donations brought in by community groups and companies, the food bank purchases a quarter-million dollars’ worth of food every year through wholesalers — and are able to purchase $1.69 per pound of food for 55 cents on average, Phelps said.
The community has a tremendous need, especially with the downturn in the building industry and the rising cost of living — from apartment rent to gasoline, Phelps said.
To raise awareness about hunger and who suffers from it, the food bank rolled out a 26-foot truck sponsored by Dermody Properties displaying pictures of young families and seniors that says: “The Faces of Hunger May Surprise You.”
“One in 10 northern Nevadans need food assistance,” Jamason said.
The Food Bank helps to feed more than 56,000 individuals every year, serves 13 Nevada counties and several communities in Lake Tahoe and throughout the eastern Sierra.
Children and seniors comprise two-thirds of people who are receive food through the food bank.
The food bank’s “New Home, New Hope” campaign, now in its second phase, is striving to build a $2 million fund to sustain food bank programs during unstable economic times.
“We’re building an endowment for ourselves, so that the food bank can be temporarily funded, to get us through the tough times,” Phelps said. “It’s like a safety net.”
The second phase of the campaign will also purchase three 26-foot refrigerated trucks costing $300,000 and fund $841,000 in additional construction costs.
The Food Bank’s largest community food collection event is set for today: the Drive-By Food Drive held at the Grand Sierra Resort’s bus turn-around and at the Summit Sierra outdoors shopping mall.
Last year, the food bank collected 63,000 pounds of food at the Grand Sierra and RC Wiley furniture store. The food bank’s goal this year is to collect 75,000 pounds of food total from the two Reno locations. There will also be food drives in the Carson City area.