SANTA ROSA -- The successful renovation of a 60,410-square-foot warehouse at 3990 Brickway Blvd. in Airport Business Center north of Santa Rosa converting it to a food distribution center has enabled the Redwood Empire Food Bank to consolidate its operations from three leased warehouse spaces into a single building.
It has also allowed this non-profit to extend its support beyond the more than 78,000 people served every month through 175 organizations from Sonoma County to the Oregon border, including working families, seniors, children and the disabled.
Some 13.5 million pounds of food, worth some $20 million, are donated and purchased each year.
[caption id="attachment_84154" align="alignright" width="450"] The welcoming exterior and entrance to the new Redwood Empire Food Bank displays the familiar color scheme of the organization.[/caption]
The new location not only improves operational efficiency, it provides room for much-needed growth and new services, such as nutrition classes, a demonstration kitchen and Value Market, the first of its kind in the county.
This market has been designed to offer a reliable and affordable source of groceries to those who need it most -- low-income individuals and families eligible for WIC, CalFresh and similar benefits.
The new building is more than three times larger than the food bank's former 20,000-square-foot site at 3320 Industrial Dr. in Santa Rosa. That had been its headquarters for 14 years.
Executive Director David Goodman said the Redwood Empire Food Bank acquired the building for $5 million from the Ronald L. Profili real estate investment group in Napa.
According to Mr. Goodman, the cost savings of renovating an existing facility compared with building a new one were an estimated $2 million.
This move will enable the organization to save more than $19 million in lease costs over the next 25 years while also allowing it to serve an additional 41 million meals during that time.
Seventy-five percent of food received is distributed directly by the food bank with the rest channeled through local food pantries, churches and community organizations.
The food bank has an operating budget of $5 million a year and a staff of 33 employees supplemented by volunteers and local agency support.
[caption id="attachment_84155" align="alignright" width="450"] The main lobby of the Redwood Empire Food Bank showing the artistic deployment of pallet boards as a wall design feature.[/caption]
The capital campaign began in 2007. The food bank has raised $7.43 million toward the total project cost of about $11.2 million, including tenant improvements.
"We raised $1.3 million five years ago when we didn't know exactly where we would relocate, but we set a goal and continued to move forward," Mr. Goodman said.
This initial sum was supplemented with additional contributions from 200 donors, including donations of $1 million each from the Finley Foundation, Robert Benson Foundation and funds from other members of the food bank's donor circle.
The new distribution center has a 5,000-square-foot freezer-cooler that can hold 22 semi-trailers of food, four loading docks with room for a fifth, high ceilings, ample parking an maneuvering space for delivery vehicles and freeway access. There is also a spacious area where agency representatives can come to select items for their own food bags and packages.
The center also has a commercial-scale kitchen for preparing meals at a planned cafe and catering events and meetings in a community room with capacity for 75 people.