Greater Cleveland Food Bank Breaks Ground On New Facility

Members of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank expansion project push shovels into the dirt during a groundbreaking ceremony.
The Greater Cleveland Food Bank's new facility will be built on donated land with the help of other local organizations. [Taylor Haggerty / ideastream]
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The Greater Cleveland Food Bank broke ground Wednesday on a new East Side building that will house all intake, distribution and production needs.

The food bank has seen an increased need for assistance during the pandemic, with about 414,000 clients seeking assistance from March 2020 to March 2021, including 170,000 new clients, GCFB President and CEO Kristin Warzocha said.

The new Coit Road facility will help meet those demands, Warzocha said. The nearly 200,000-square-foot property will include more space for dry and cold food storage, a bigger kitchen for meal preparation and new areas for volunteer and community work.

“I believe that this expansion will be truly transformational in our ability to fight against hunger and support everyone in our community,” Warzocha said.

The current building on South Waterloo Road will be renovated later to serve as a site for food pickup and to offer help with issues like housing and employment, she said.

The GCFB has had to turn away donations in the past year due to lack of storage and limited distribution capabilities, Warzocha said. The Coit Road facility will address those issues.

“We’ve been fighting hunger in our community for more than 40 years,” Warzocha said. “But the economic issues caused by COVID have made it even worse. Now, one in six people in the six counties we serve are food insecure.”

The expansion aims to assist the food bank’s efforts to address the roots of food insecurity in the region, said County Executive Armond Budish. The county has aided GCFB in those efforts with about $1.5 million in financial support through 2020, he said.

“We’re the richest country in the world, we shouldn’t have people going hungry. But we do,” Budish said. “And it’s the food bank that fulfills the promise of America by taking care of our residents.”

Cleveland City Councilman Michael Polensek noted that Cleveland has the highest overall poverty out of the 50 largest cities in the United States.

“We need to ensure that we have the capacity to meet the needs and serve every child, senior, veteran and adult who needs help putting food on their table,” Polensek said.

While the expansion will allow for more efficient distribution of food and resources through the GCFB, it also will aid other local organizations, said Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority CEO and Safety Director Jeff Patterson.

CMHA works with the food bank to provide backpacks with lunches for schoolchildren and groceries for elderly residents in the Cleveland area, Patterson said, and the expansion will help those program continue and grow.

The new facility is being built on land donated by the DiGeronimo family. Vic DiGeronimo serves on the GCFB board.

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