Now that the Capital Area Food Bank is officially open for business, we invite you to visit us in our new distribution center located at 4900 Puerto Rico Ave., NE. You’ll be amazed, especially if you have been to our former home on Taylor Street, NE.
You may be wondering why we moved. Despite the fact that we are distributing 33 million pounds annually – half of which is fresh produce – we have not been able to meet the growing demand, because we outgrew our warehouse space. Poverty is on the rise in our region and nationally. The middle class is under stress and many people who have never needed emergency food services, including our returning military veterans, find themselves at the doors of neighborhood food pantries that depend on the Capital Area Food Bank for food, fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as household items.
Since our founding 32 years ago as a temporary hunger relief operation, we are disturbed to see the need grow. We had hoped to see poverty and hunger diminish, but today more than 680,000 individuals, including 200,000 children, in the Washington metro area look to us for help. We are currently only able to meet the needs of 75 percent of those going without one or more meals a day.
In order to increase our capacity and shrink the meal gap, we embarked on a capital campaign five years ago under the leadership of co-chairs Donald E. Graham, J.W. Marriott Jr., the late Abe Pollin and Bennett Zier. The campaign concluded in November of 2010 with a capstone grant of $5 million from William E. Conway Jr. and his wife, Joanne, through their charitable trust, The Bedford Falls Foundation.
Our architect, Epstein; our general contractor, Turner Construction Company; and our development manager, the Jair Lynch Development Partners; have been hard at work for the past year and a half renovating a 23,000 square foot office portion of an existing building and constructing a 100,000 square foot adjoining warehouse named The Bedford Falls Foundation Distribution Center in recognition of the capstone grant.
This move will enable the Capital Area Food Bank to continue leading the hunger relief effort in the Washington metro area. For example, the new facility is the size of two football fields, twice the size of the former warehouse. Increased refrigerator and freezer capacity will enable the food bank to provide more nutritious fruits and vegetables, as well.
There will be room to increase the food bank’s volunteer base – currently more than 15,000 annually – so they will be able to pack food for more convenient client distribution.
Special features and fixtures such as energy efficient lighting, low-flow faucets and solar panels, donated by BP, will result in well over $70,000 in energy cost savings per year, thus allowing our resources to provide greater service to the community.
With 100 employees, the food bank outgrew the space in our former facility years ago. We shared offices and desks. Our conference room would have four meetings going on at once. Today, we have space to breathe. Morale is high. We have new energy and we are hard at work fulfilling our mission – to serve others ’til no one is hungry.
Now, more than ever, we need your help to fill up our new distribution center. And if you do come for a visit, I know you will join us on a regular basis.