Posted November 3, 20226:00 pm
By Karin Connelly Rice
A group of almost 300 community members; city, county, and state elected officials; and partners came together to celebrate the opening of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s new 197,00-square-foot Partner Distribution Hub at 13815 Coit Road in Collinwood yesterday, Wednesday, Nov. 2—the first step in the Food Bank’s long-term plan to serve more people in its coverage are and make sure those in need have a full range of services.
“It was so exciting,” says Jessica Morgan, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank (GCFB) chief program officer. “We’ve been working on what we consider to be a very transformative expansion project to meet the needs of the community.”
The new facility will be a hub for food collection and distribution to the Food Bank’s network of partner agencies that help serve nearly 350,000 people annually in six counties and will help GCFB serve even more hungry families.
At the end of its fiscal 2022 year, GCFB and its partners provided the equivalent of 49 million meals and served nearly 350,000 people, says Morgan, yet nearly 558,000 residents are income eligible for food from the Food Bank and its partner programs in its service area, which includes Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, Ashland and Richland Counties.
Morgan adds that demand for food surged in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to grow. She says 40% of the Food Bank's1,000 partner agencies across the six counties pick up food from the distribution hub.
The Coit Road distribution center consists of a volunteer and donor drop-off area, five-high shelf racking units in the warehouse, an expansive cooler and freezer space, and a kitchen four times the size of the Food Bank’s previous kitchen on South Waterloo Road. The space also boasts a larger volunteer repack area and agency pick-up space.
While the Coit Road facility does not serve individuals directly, the larger space and layout will allow for increased capacity to store and distribute healthy fresh foods and nonperishable items, as well as prepare nutritious meals.
“This new partner distribution hub will serve our network of partners up to 20,000 meals a day more efficiently,” says Morgan. “And we’ll be able to serve more healthy food.”
Keeping in line with the GCFB’s commitment to sustainability and community engagement, the hub is equipped with solar panels, onsite composting, and a partnership with Collinwood Bio Energy.
GCFB is also partnering with LAND studio and the Museum of Creative Human Art to create several mission and community-inspired murals throughout the building. The murals are in progress.
The Partner Distribution Hub is the first phase in a three-phase $79 million expansion project to create food stability in Northeast Ohio. An ongoing capital campaign has raised $56 million.
GCFB broke ground on the new hub in April 2021 and will enter phase two later this month with renovations to the South Waterloo facility.
“Phase two will be reimagining and the renovation of the South Waterloo facility into a community resource center,” says Morgan. “The new center will serve as space to address the key drivers of food insecurity—housing, healthcare, and employment.”
The second phase should be completed by late November 2023, says Morgan.
Eight to ten non-profit partners will be at the at the reimagined Waterloo resource center to provide critical services, including CHN Housing Partners, Towards Employment, MetroHealth, Shoes and Clothes for Kids, Family Connections, Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, and United Way 211.
Phase three of the transformation project will be the creation of additional food resource centers on the south and west sides of Northeast Ohio.
Although the GCFB has not yet reached its $79 million fundraising goal, Morgan says they are appreciative of the donations to date.
“We really believe it’s truly going to be transformative for our community,” she says of the larger vision. “The community has been incredibly supportive—we’ve received donations from individuals and organizations; we received $5 million each from the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County; and we got Ohio State Capital funding.”
She also says she is confident the GCFB will reach its fundraising goal. “We still have about $23 million to raise,” she says. “We have a lot of work to do, but we know our community will step up.”
Original story published by Freshwater Cleveland: Greater Cleveland Food Bank completes first phase of its expansion plan