Second Harvest Food Bank of Clark, Champaign and Logan Counties has received a $40,000 grant from Cargill, money that will help it to quadruple its cold storage space as it struggles to keep up with increasing demand from its surging clientele.
Katie McMillan, who leads Cargill’s Nourishing People Campaign in Sidney, said the company is “trying to help ensure everyone has enough to eat by partnering with organizations to help find long-term solutions” to hunger.
“We can’t thank them enough,” said Keith Williams, executive director of the food bank, describing the grant as the latest in an improbable series of events that will allow the Springfield facility to handle more perishables at a time when they have become an increasing portion of the food used to fill empty plates.
Williamson said Second Harvest was able to get the Cargill grant by using $50,000 in seed money the Springfield Port Authority donated in April after Springfield News-Sun reports of increased hunger in the community.
The Port Authority grant was targeted at cold storage, one of the issues the food bank was hoping to address as part of a facilities study it was about to launch when the Port Authority acted.
Now, with a second donation from Cargill, “we’re already ahead of the game,” Williams said. “It truly shows a lot of people in the community understand what we’re dealing with.”
In a press release, Second Harvest said it is “close to having the $94,000 in funds to build a new 34-by-37-by-18 foot cooler” and that “additional donations of $56,000 are needed to convert the existing cooler to freezer space, completing the needed upgrade to the cold storage units.”
Williamson said he and his staff are working with parent agency Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio to “firm up the whole pricing process” for buying the cooler and converting the freezer.
Once that’s decided, he said, “it’s a seven- to nine-week time process” to get the cooler ordered, delivered and installed. “Our plan is to get it rolling in early fall, maybe mid-September.”
He said the Archdiocese of Cincinnati has also “elected to give us additional funds to get it done.”
The expansion would increase the 701 E. Columbia St. facility’s cold storage capacity from the current 16 pallets to 54. By converting its current cooler/freezer unit to all frozen foods, it will increase frozen food capacity by 40 percent.
Williamson said perishable food has become more important to food banks in recent years because shelf-stable donations have leveled off at the same time that more and more people need to be fed.
He added that deliveries of perishables like meat and produce typically come available “in large quantities.”
Because it hasn’t had enough capacity, the food bank has been unable to bid on food offered by the “Feeding America” or take full advantage of other suppliers, including Walmart, Meijer and Kroger.
“My product sources are very in tune with our limitations,” Williamson said.
He expects them to be just as in tune with the increased capacity, which will arrive just in time.
“Already through may of this year, 11 percent more people are visiting Food Bank member agencies compared with the same time in 2012,” the press release announcing the grant said. “Children account for 35 percent of these clients, with 14 percent more served this year than last year.”
In all, the food bank finds, collects, sorts and distributes more than 3.4 million pounds of food a year to people through its 73-member agencies.
The demand is expected to continue to surge. The Feeding America program earlier this year advised food banks to plan for increases of 4.5 percent annually for the next five years.