As our nation and community weathers the toughest economic times in many decades, the numbers of our neighbors in need of food continue to grow larger. It should not come as a surprise to learn that Second Harvest Food Bank continues to push forward in our mission, and has continued to deliver record distributions of food each year throughout our history and even through the recession years. What may come as a surprise to some, however, is that such vital, steady growth has temporarily come to an end.
The more than 33 million pounds of grocery products distributed by Second Harvest Food Bank over the past 12 months has pushed the envelope of our organization’s infrastructure to its very limit and beyond.
How do we know? We know because there was no place to put millions of pounds of additional fruits, vegetables and other nutritious items that could have helped people. Our cooler and freezer space wasn’t adequate to handle the food that was available. Dry storage has exceeded capacity as well.
Fortunately for Central Florida, there is a solid plan to fix this most rectifiable situation for many years to come. Back in the mid-nineties, the Food Bank faced a similar situation. Capacity was needed to keep growing to meet the demand. And a successful fundraising campaign for a new building allowed enough capacity to grow from 6 million pounds per year to the current 33 million pounds. What an incredible growth curve in just 15 years!
Second Harvest Food Bank is now positioned to make that same sort of leap forward in service with the building of a new 100,000 square foot facility on Mercy Drive in Orlando. Much needed capacity, including freezer and cooler expansion and many other efficiencies and programs will be made possible upon completion of the project. Just as it did in the nineties, however, the Food Bank needs an injection of capital dollars “over and above” what it costs to operate our mission this year. We’re calling this project “Building Solutions to Hunger.” For a philanthropic community investment of $10 million, a return of 1,400% in terms of the value of food to be distributed over the next 20 years ($1.4 Billion) is projected. It’s not just a remarkably sound investment for our area, but a real investment in hope.
The good news is that the overall campaign has great momentum supplied by some very generous supporters. Morgan & Morgan P.A. has pledged $2 million, and Darden Restaurants will give $750,000. The Food Bank’s own board of directors members have collectively pledged more than $400,000, and Dr. Phillips Charities will contribute $250,000.
A number of others help round the commitments to date to more than $4.5 million of the $10 million needed to get this project completed. Still, many more generous gifts will be required to get the ground broken in early 2012, and to begin working from the new facility by the end of next year.
As you might imagine, the times we live in have lent an incredible urgency to the community’s need for this project to be a reality. I urge anyone and everyone who has the ability to consider a gift to do so as soon as possible. Before you do, however, please take a few minutes to check out http://showmercynow.org/index.html for a very special video presentation and a collection of great information about the project. We can’t do it without you! Thanks.
Greg Higgerson, CFRE