IMPERIAL – The Imperial Valley Food Bank (IVFB) announced its multi-million dollar capital campaign Friday to develop a 28,000-square-foot facility off Aten and the Imperial Business Park. Dignitaries and those associated with food distribution in the Valley gathered at the newly-purchased lot located behind Farm Credit Services to listen to the board’s ambitious plans and vision.
“We raised 57 percent of our six million dollar goal in less than a year,” said Jim Abatti, board vice-president. “Last Tuesday, the Imperial Irrigation District voted to give us one million dollars.”
John Levada, president of IVFB and senior vice president of Rabobank, took to the podium to announce his bank pledged another million dollars to the new facility. With the check came naming rights, which were revealed to be, “Imperial Valley Food Bank at Rabobank Commons.”
“This is more than a building,” Levada said. “We will also have a full kitchen for diabetic cooking classes and nutrition classes, to not only provide nourishing food to the most vulnerable in our area, but to teach them how to get the most out of their food through cooking.”
The new location also will house an expansive warehouse and distribution center, a gardening area, and office space to better carry out the mission to ensure that all residents have access to nutritionally valuable food.
The IVFB was founded 25 years ago by Richard Ryan when he saw a need in Imperial Valley. Crops of food and produce surrounded the local cities, yet so many residents were undernourished and hungry. As the organization grew and gained momentum, it eventually moved into the 12,000 square foot warehouse they now occupy, but as food trucks rolled in, unloading meant crawling into the trucks and handing boxes to someone at ground level. The new facility’s design will have loading docks to handle three different types of truck deliveries.
Steve Sharp is the food solicitor for the California Associated Food Bank. Sharp deals directly with the growers as he searches for fresh food that is not marketable — either due to diminished prices or appearance — with neither affecting the nutritional aspects of the produce.
The USDA is another source of food for the organization as truckloads of frozen food is shipped to their facility.
“We will never have to turn down another truckload of food because we don’t have space,” Levada said. “With the refrigeration units we plan to install, we will have more than enough storage.”
Abatti said he expected to be back on the lot within the year with shovels for their groundbreaking ceremony. Abatti is also the capital fundraising committee chair and believes the Valley will be generous when his team comes calling on businesses and citizens to give.
The demand for emergency food assistance in Imperial Valley is growing according to Sara Griffin, the executive director of the food bank. As of now, the facility serves over 20,000 individuals every month. By 2020, that number is expected to rise to 24,000.