The Redwood Empire Food Bank announced Friday it is buying a larger distribution center near the Sonoma County airport that will permit it to feed more hungry residents around the North Coast.
The $5 million warehouse purchase is fueled by two $1 million donations, with the move anticipated next summer.
The relocation, however, is dependent on some reconstruction of the 60,000-square-foot warehouse that food bank officials say means an additional $2.5 million in fund raising. Grant possibilities and some potential donors already have been identified, Chief Operating Officer Jean Larson said Friday.
"It's a lot of money at this time, but the need is also pretty apparent to everybody," she said.
The Food Bank, which currently operates out of its headquarters on Industrial Drive in Santa Rosa, provides food to about 75,000 people a year, officials said.
That's one out of every five people in the community — some reliant on the food bank all year, others who depend on it during illnesses, unemployment or other times of emergency, Larson said.
The agency has outgrown its three storage annexes and the occasional lease of cold storage space.
"This year, for the first time since the REFB was founded 24 years ago, we will not be able to distribute more food than we did last year," Executive Director David Goodman said in a written statement. "The need is up 20 percent over the past three years, and the food is available.
"The problem is, we haven't adequate facilities to store, handle and distribute the volume of food that we need to move," Goodman said. "That's the choke-hold that's been on our small warehouse."
Larson said hopes for the new facility on Brickway Boulevard also include a demonstration kitchen and an enlarged "value marketplace," where low-income families can purchase produce and other nutritious foods using CalFresh or WIC vouchers.
"We at the food bank are very excited about the opportunities this will bring for us to help people in need improve their ability to be healthy and productive members of the community," Larson said. "And we think it contributes to making our entire community better and more vibrant and healthier."