The new Raleigh facility of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina is big. In fact, it’s so big that, when you walk into the food storage warehouse, you can’t even see it all at once.
“Our volunteers have more space and more opportunities to come,” says Peter Werbicki, CEO of the CENC Food Bank. “We have doubled our loading dock space. Trucks can get mobile much more quickly. And we have initiatives to train the community, so they can come out of food insecurity and become self sufficient.”
The 85,000=square-foot space, which has been up-cycled and rehabilitated on Capital Boulevard, was dedicated at a ceremony Thursday ahead of a public opening Saturday. Sponsors such as Cisco Systems, Food Lion Feeds, and the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust helped pay for the renovations. With three times as many coolers and freezers, more than twice the overall square footage, and space for teaching kitchens and classrooms, the new facility is a truly impressive upgrade, capable of pushing out more food to families in need.
Out of its former home in an obscure industrial zone for the last few weeks, the food bank is now much more visible, too. Near the soon-to-be revitalized Gateway Plaza, it occupies the old Raleigh Flea Market Mall, easily accessible from downtown Raleigh.
“The old building on Tarheel Drive was tucked away,” says Jessica Whichard, the communications manager for the CENC Food Bank. “It’s only two miles away from here, but it doesn’t have the same feeling of community. Now, people realize we are here and have resources.”
The food bank plans to take advantage of that space with several new initiatives that include a community health department, which brings in food pantry and soup kitchen volunteers to provide nutritious food and teach people how to prepare it. A teaching kitchen and new recipes will help food-insecure people learn new ways to utilize what they get. The Food Bank will hold résumé preparation workshops and classes on financial literacy, too.
Approximately 8,500 people rely on the Food Bank in Raleigh and five other partner locations for daily access to food. They’d actually prefer to serve less.
“The folks that work in the Food Bank work very hard to make their job go away,” said Doug Zinn, CEO of William R. Kenan, Jr. Trust. “When America’s food secure, we will no longer need food banks.”
As the new facility suggests, that day may come—but it’s not here yet.
The CENC Food Bank will open its doors to the public this Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with tours, food trucks, and games for kids.
(Images provided by the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.)