MONTEREY HERALD | Jan. 22, 2018
Food Bank of Monterey County expanding services with new $10 million facility in Salinas
Salinas >> Ground was broken at a new location for the Food Bank for Monterey County on Monday, amidst the puddles created by an early morning rain.
“I apologize for the weather,” said Melissa Kendrick, the Food Bank’s executive director. “First, I’d like to draw your attention to our swimming pool,” she said, gesturing to standing water left from the showers.
Jokes aside, Kendrick was all smiles for the groundbreaking ceremony. Preparations to build the new bank have been percolating over the last 18 months. The Food Bank is the largest provider of emergency supplementary food in Monterey County and serves 1 in 5 of the area’s residents, half of those being children. Their facilities of the last 20 years were “woefully inadequate” for feeding those over 100,000 individuals a year, said Kendrick.
The old site, located at 815 W. Market St. in Salinas, was particularly limited in terms of food storage capacity. The limitation was worsened by a fire that took place on March 21, 2015, which damaged the bank’s industrial-sized refrigerator. The blaze also took out three of the bank’s trucks used to collect and deliver food.
“The fire really planted the seed” to build a better food bank at a new location, said Susan Spiegel, board president for the nonprofit.
The Market Street site was leased, she explained, and rent was the largest line item on the bank’s budget. In addition, with only 5,000 square feet of refrigeration space, the old location didn’t fit the needs of a food bank distributing upwards of 10 million pounds of food a year.
“Our partners in the agriculture industry donate us their overage,” Spiegel said. “At the old facility, we couldn’t handle more food even if they wanted to give it – now we won’t have to turn any food away.”
Kendrick found the bank’s new site at 334 W. Rossi St. The Food Bank purchased the $2.5 million plot with funds from the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, the Harden Foundation, Pinnacle Bank and Sunlight Giving. SSB Construction is building the new facility, designed by Belli Architectural Group, to be powered by an array of solar-panels and feature 20,000 square feet of refrigeration space.
The new food bank aims to minimize its own carbon footprint and that of its partners in agriculture.
California’s landfills emit a steady stream of methane as the organic waste in them decomposes – enough to make them the second largest man-made source of methane in the state. The landfills are made up of about 18 percent food waste, making food a major contributor to the state’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.
To help tackle the issue, Gov. Jerry Brown approved Senate Bill 1383 in 2016. The bill requires that at least 20 percent of edible food that is currently disposed of in California is recovered for human consumption by 2025. CalRecycle propels the state toward this goal by regulating the disposal, recycling and recovery of organic waste. Partnerships with organizations like the Food Bank for Monterey County help agricultural companies comply with the new regulations.
“When they have excess food, they think of us first,” said Kendrick. “We’re able to divert produce and perishable waste from landfills and get it into the mouths of those that need it.”
The new food bank should be open by June, she said, and operations will continue at the old facility in the meantime.
“I’m surprised she didn’t make the sun come out,” said Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter of Kendrick at the groundbreaking. Gunter commended Kendrick’s tireless passion, noting the community’s reliance on her efforts at the Food Bank. The nonprofit provides food to 150 agencies, including Meals on Wheels, Dorothy’s Place and many church pantries.
“Because of the food bank, people are getting fed tonight,” he said.
Congressman Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, sent his support from Washington, where he is working to reauthorize the Farm Bill, which supports supplementary food programs like the Food Bank. Supervisor Simon Salinas, Social Services director Elliott Robinson, and Salinas councilmembers Gloria De La Rosa and Scott Davis also attended the event.
“The Food Bank has so many faces,” said District 5 Supervisor Mary Adams, who has supported the organization since her days as CEO of United Way Monterey County. Many county residents are impacted by hunger, she said, from military families to seniors to young people.