IOWA CITY — Since the Crisis Center of Johnson County’s food bank warehouse was first constructed 15 years ago, the number of families the organization serves each week has roughly tripled.
The space to store the food, however, did not.
That was until the Crisis Center debuted its new warehouse expansion at a Thursday evening ribbon-cutting ceremony. The bigger facility will allow the pantry to accept large donations, and includes additional cold storage, a repackaging room, a second bathroom and a donation drop-off site.
“A warehouse — you wouldn’t think it’s that exciting, but we know what it means to our clients and to our volunteers and really ultimately to the community because we are able to provide the best service possible,” said Sara Sedlacek, the center’s communications and development director.
Today, the food bank serves more than 1,000 families per week and distributes 1.6 million pounds of food each year.
The warehouse expansion adds eight to 12 additional food pallet spaces and allows for the streamlining of receiving and sorting donations. The organization is also expecting to save money by repackaging bulk items, which are cheaper to buy, and the extra cooler space can store more fresh produce.
“The need in our community continues to grow when it comes to food insecurity and projects like this help us meet that growing need,” Jeremy James, chair of the center’s board of directors, said during the ceremony, which drew dozens of community members and volunteers.
The Crisis Center launched a fundraising campaign last August with the total project cost estimated around $350,000.
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The organization had to reopen its fundraising campaign, called Grow Your Local Food Bank, after the costs of raw materials skyrocketed following the 2017 hurricanes in Texas and Florida. Bids for the project came in about $50,000 higher than originally estimated.
The project got a major boost in the form of two matching donations, one for $45,000 from the University of Iowa Community Credit Union and another $25,000 from Adamantine Spine Moving.
The total project cost ended up being around $425,000. In addition to donations, the expansion received three Johnson County sustainability grants as well as an Iowa City Community Development block grant.
“It’s amazing the generosity of this community. People just recognize the need,” Sedlacek said, adding there are about 13,000 people who face food insecurity and rely on the Crisis Center. “When you are serving that many people, you need space.”
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