Food bank construction begins

$1.3 million project will retain existing building shell, make wholesale changes to its interior

Construction started this week on a floor-to-ceiling renovation and re-imagining project at Community FoodBank of San Benito. The $2.25 million project includes purchase of the building in 2016. The project is scheduled to be completed by mid-August.

When completed, Community FoodBank’s 1133 San Felipe Rd. home will offer shoppers an experience very much like that of a friendly corner market.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first purpose-built structure for a local nonprofit organization in the history of San Benito County,” said Maria Lynn Thomas, FoodBank’s chief executive officer.  “To say that we’re all pretty excited doesn’t begin to describe the anticipation we’re all feeling.”

While retaining the existing building shell, the $1.3 million construction portion of the project encompasses wholesale changes to the interior of the structure. Walls are moving. An attic space will be converted to offices and a shared workspace overlooking the warehouse. A dedicated food packaging area will allow staff and volunteers to handle bulk items and break them down into consumer-friendly packages.

Refrigeration will be updated, resulting in significant energy savings, and the building as a whole will get energy saving upgrades, along with its first-ever heating and air conditioning system.

The goal is to better serve the 9,000 San Benito County residents who visit FoodBank every year. When the project is done, glass entrances will replace roll-up doors. The reception area will include a small play area for children.

Avila Construction Company of Monterey is the contractor for the project. The undertaking has been funded thus far through a number of grants and private donations, as well as a Community Development Block Grant that’s being administered through the city of Hollister.

While most funds are secured, construction costs have risen significantly in recent months, and additional funding sources and supporters are being sought through an upcoming capital campaign.

“We’re so close – over 85 percent of the needed funds are in hand,” Thomas said. “This fantastic community has always stepped in with great generosity, so we’re not at all worried.  This is going to happen, and the people of San Benito County will be justified in taking pride in what, together, we’ve accomplished.  It feels good to say, ‘here, we know how to take care of one another.’”

Mark Paxton

I've been at this most of my life, and it still fascinates and challenges me. San Benito County can be a cruel mistress at times, but we can share in our love for her, even with all her quirks.