Feeding the Valley food bank has opened a branch in LaGrange, Ga. that executive director Frank Sheppard said will increase storage area and make the operation more efficient.
A grand opening celebration is scheduled for Wednesday at 10 a.m.
“We wanted to open a branch that would be more available to organizations in our northern counties service area,” Sheppard said. “In the past, organizations have driven to Columbus to pick up supplies.”
That northern counties service area includes Troup, Harris, Meriwether and Talbot Counties.
The non-profit food bank, a United Way partner agency established in 1983, distributes an average of more than 6.7 million pounds of food on an annual basis in partnership with more than 225 agencies in a 14-county area in Georgia and Alabama.
Last year, the food bank distributed 1.5 million pounds of food in the northern region.
Sheppard called the new branch a “state of the art facility that is perfect for a food bank” and said there is room for growth that Feeding the Valley does not have at its Columbus location on Coca-Cola Boulevard.
The organization has been at its Columbus site since 1992.
Sheppard said the new building at 118 Gordon Commercial Drive is 24,000 square feet, the same size as the Columbus branch .
Feeding the Valley has a three-year lease on the building which is in an industrial park.
“One reason we chose the location is because it is close to a Walmart distribution center which donates a lot to us,” Sheppard said.
He said most of the food will go directly to the LaGrange branch rather than passing through Columbus but there will still be some product going back and forth.
“We will evaluate on a regular basis what is needed here and what is needed there,” Sheppard said.
The Columbus warehouse has about one million pounds of food on hand every day and so could the branch in LaGrange when it is operating at full capacity.
Feeding the Valley receives donations of food and grocery products from national and local retail donors. In addition, area businesses, individuals, civic groups, schools and churches conduct food drives throughout the year.
Feeding the Valley collaborates with member partner agencies that receive food from the warehouse and then distribute it to families in need within their neighborhoods.
One of Feeding the Valley’s programs is the mobile pantry in which the food bank provides direct distribution to needy families in locations where there is limited access to emergency food pantries, More than 6,000 families receive food each month through the program.
Another of the food bank’s programs is Kids Café which in Columbus and Phenix City, provides evening meals for needy children. The year round program provides 90,000 meals on an annual basis. Sheppard said he would like to see the Kids Café program extend into other areas served by the food bank.