The Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina has moved to a larger space at 2700 Angier Ave. in East Durham.
The food bank branch has served Durham, Chatham, Granville, Orange, Person and Vance counties from its centralized location in Durham since 1999, beginning with space on Ramseur Street and since 2002, at 708 Gilbert St.
But the need to feed people who can’t afford enough food continues to grow, said spokeswoman Jennifer Caslin.
Since 2010, the bank has increased its distribution 12 percent and now serves almost 100,000 people, one in three of them children.
In January, the food bank crossed the 60 million pound mark in food delivery.
After looking at several possibilities, the new location, a former refrigerator-magnet factory, met the bank’s needs while remaining close to many partner agencies.
The space covers 29,000 square feet., almost 11,000 more square feet than on Gilbert Street and includes overflow freezers to house frozen meats.
For a long time, the old location had a freezer trailer in the parking lot to keep frozen foods.
There are now also overflow coolers for products like yogurt and fresh produce.
Other pluses include more office space, a bigger conference room, a break room, more docking space for deliveries and pick-ups, plenty of parking and increased space for volunteers.
Always needed, volunteers logged 170,000 hours last year, the equivalent of 80 staff members, Caslin said.
In addition to checking expiration dates and for dented cans, volunteers break down thousand pound wholesale boxes of foods like pasta and potatoes into consumer-friendly bags. Volunteers in the old building often found themselves working in the parking lot or various locations on the property. Now, they will all be in a more centralized area.
While work preapring the warehouse began last November, equipment started moving in at the end of February.
The quick move cost about $100,000. To help cover the figure, the bank is hosting a “virtual moving party” at its website, where donors can choose amounts to give.
Patrick Spencer, the branch outreach coordinator, began work at the food bank as a volunteer almost seven years ago.
He’s found the always needed items include kid-friendly donations – individual sized products like Pop-Tarts, fruit cups and juice boxes or other items that don’t need cooking or a can opener.
Recently he has noticed more calls from people wanting to help, from both agencies and individuals.
With the new building’s wood-paneled floors and a wall mural of the Bull City skyline greeting visitors and volunteers alike, Spencer said it is as good a time as any to pitch in.
“Volunteering opens your mind to your community around you,” he said. “It does something to your inside.”