Supporters of the Redwood Empire Food Bank gathered on Saturday for a landmark moment — a groundbreaking celebration of the Food Bank's new home on Brickway Boulevard near the Sonoma County airport. It was also a moment to celebrate the successful completion of a $9 million fundraising campaign to acquire the new 60,000-square-foot building and shape it into something that will meet the region's food needs for years.

It's a need that continues to grow.

The number of Sonoma County families and individuals served by the Food Bank has increased 45 percent in the past five years. And despite hints that the economy is improving, the demand has increased another 11 percent over the past two years. The Food Bank now provides food to 78,000 people — 34,000 of them children — in Sonoma County each month.<NO1>, most of it through its own distribution centers but much of it through its 166 partner agencies.<NO>

In terms of pounds of food distributed per person in poverty, the Redwood Empire Food Bank ranks in the top 6 percent of food banks in the nation.

The event Saturday recognized not only a major accomplishment — the raising of $9million through 350 generous donors — but a breakthrough moment as well. The Food Bank needed new space because it had reached the point it could no longer accept any more donations, even as the demand for food continued to rise.

This new home, a converted warehouse, will provide more storage space, more room for refrigeration and more space for volunteers to package foods. It also will allow the Food Bank to offer new programs and services, such as the creation of a revenue-generating cafe to serve workers in the area who can learn about the Food Bank and possibly volunteer.

But to make that happen, and to ensure that the Food Bank opens in its new home in the spring of 2013 as scheduled, there's one more piece that needs to fall into place.

The Food Bank is now launching its "Community Campaign," which will provide everyone an opportunity to take part in this grand "blueprint to end hunger." The long-term goal is to raise the final $750,000 needed to meet the facility's needs.

The Food Bank's new home will feature a wall of tiles, each with the name of a person or organization that donated $500 or more. Donors also will be invited to the Food Bank's grand opening celebration in 2013.

We encourage residents to take part in this campaign to the extent they are able. During the coming winter months, we no doubt will write again about the region's need for turkeys and other food items. But this campaign offers an opportunity to be part of a legacy effort to stamp out hunger here at home.

As Food Bank Executive Director David Goodman put it, "This is the most important humanitarian effort ever to take place in Sonoma County."

We believe it. Figures show that one in six people in the county is in need of food on any given day. Let's ensure no one is ever left without.