Columbia Pacific Food Bank opens in new location Monday
Frequent travelers along Milton Way in St. Helens are more than familiar with the green building that houses the Columbia Pacific Food Bank.
You can easily see that the building is showing its age, but that's all about to change Monday, Aug. 1, when the food bank opens at its new location, 1421 Columbia Blvd.
Food bank executive director Alex Tardif and staff have been busy these past several days, getting ready for the new location, which is the former feed and seed building.
The new location will provide expanded space for the food bank.
The Milton Way building had about 2,500 square feet. The new location provides over 12,000 square feet, which will be welcomed by the food bank — and, in turn, by families who are struggling through inflation and a likely recession.
Tardif said the added space will allow the food bank to double its capacity to somewhere between 2.5 million and 3 million pounds of food.
At noon Aug. 12, the Columbia Pacific Food Bank will celebrate a grand opening and ribbon-cutting.
"It's a community event where we're inviting the community to come, to tour the space and to get familiar with the new building," Tardif said.
The big move was helped along by a $1.5 million community development block grant.
The purpose of the grant, according to Tardif, was to renovate and bring the Columbia Boulevard building to up code.
"We have grant requirements that require us to use it as a distribution center for food for the next five years," Tardif said. "The reality is that it will be a distribution center for food for many, many, many years to come, so I'm not really worried about the grant requirement."
The community development block grant money originally comes from the federal government, according to Jennifer Dimsho, community development project manager for the city of St. Helens.
"It's federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development," Dimsho said. "They allocate that money to Business Oregon (the state's economic development agency). The grant itself is actually from Business Oregon, but their funding is federal."
The transition from Milton Way to a new location has taken years.
"The food bank has been trying to get a new building for about seven years now," Tardif said. "We're really excited for this new building and all of the opportunities that come with it."
The new facility will have an educational kitchen.
"We will be able to do cooking classes," Tardif said, noting the first cooking class will be held Aug. 3. It will be a Cooking Matters class with OSU Extension. You can find registration information on the food bank's website, cpfoodbank.org.
The new center will also feature a re-pack room.
"We now have the ability to buy in large quantities in bulk, and break them down into smaller quantities to distribute to our clients," Tardif said.
With inflation and recession fears, the food bank is likely to serve more patrons in the future.
"We have seen an uptick, especially with the inflation that we're seeing right now, and people needing assistance with support," Tardif said. "We will continue to meet that need. The facility gives us more space to have more product, to be able to help more people."
Tardif added, "The more boxes we can build, the more people we can serve."
Tardif is optimistic about the future of the food bank in its new location.
"I'm very excited for the future and the opportunities that await us," Tardif said. "We're very excited to get into our new building and get it open for the community."
For her part, Dimsho remarked, "This project has been a really rewarding one to work on. … It's been a great project for the community."
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