By Kate Santich, Orlando Sentinel
8:34 p.m. EST, November 13, 2012
Second Harvest Food Bank is showing off its new 100,000-square-foot headquarters this week to give supporters a glimpse of the future: a distribution center that can feed an estimated 55,000 Central Florida residents each week, improve nutrition for the poor, reduce waste from agriculture and supermarkets, and put thousands more volunteers to work each year.
The $15 million construction project, located at the intersection of Old Winter Garden Road and Mercy Drive in Orlando, is on pace to open in January. It will replace two current Second Harvest facilities a mile apart, while tripling warehouse and freezer space, and quadrupling refrigerated storage area.
That will allow the food bank to provide low-income residents with more fresh fruits, vegetables and frozen meat.
“This is not your grandfather’s food bank,” said Second Harvest CEO Dave Krepcho, leading one of the hard-hat tours through his agency’s future home. The facility’s new commercial-grade kitchen, for instance, not only will enable the agency to cook instead of purchase meals for children’s after-school and summer feeding programs. It also could help Second Harvest earn money.
Plans call for gourmet cooking classes to the public, catering to conferences held in the facility’s spacious community center and producing and selling a “signature” food product — perhaps, say, a gourmet spaghetti sauce if there’s a large donation of surplus tomatoes.
Second Harvest also plans to charge a “negligible” fee for use of its conference center, which can seat up to 220.
“It’s just amazing to see all the good that this larger, state-of-the-art facility can do,” said Valerie McDonald, a vice president for Wells Fargo, which provided a short-term loan for the project. “They’re doing all the right things. It’s massive in size, but there’s such a tremendous need in this community.”
There also are plans to offer culinary training to small groups of adults referred through local homeless shelters and soup kitchens — those “who need a second chance,” Krepcho said. The charity already has hired an executive chef to lead the culinary programs.
But the single biggest change will be the capacity to have more volunteers, from 40 or 50 at a time at the old facility to more than 200 at the new one.
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