VISTA — Just in time for the holidays, the San Diego Food Bank is ready to unveil its crown jewel in North County.
The food bank is hosting an open house Dec. 5 for its new 30,000-square-foot facility at 1445 Engineer Street, Suite 110. The event runs from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. and visitors are encouraged to bring non-perishable items or cash donations.
The new facility is a major upgrade for North County and the San Diego Food Bank, CEO Jim Floros said. Previously, the North County Food Bank was housed in a 5,000-square-foot building, lacking the capability for expansion and more robust services, he added.
“We are so excited … and the amount support we’ve gotten from the North County community has been remarkable,” he said. “They’ve embraced the fact that they have their own food bank.”
Four years ago, the SDFB acquired the North County Food Bank in San Marcos from North County Community Services. Floros called it “the friendliest acquisition of all time,” also noting the SDFB saw the need for a hub to reach more people and nonprofit partners.
SDFB’s hub is located on Miramar Road in San Diego, which was a hardship for the more than 100 nonprofits dependent on the food bank, he said. Concurrently, Floros and his operation had a big vision for North County, along with SDFB, and moving into a larger facility was a must.
There were several issues with the San Marcos facility including no loading docks and refrigeration units too small to fit pallets through.
“How am I going to do a million more pounds of fresh produce in North County with refrigeration you can’t even put a pallet through?” Floros asked rhetorically. “It took a little bit longer than anticipated and we had to line up our funding.”
It took about a year after the acquisition to find a location, which is a temporary “resting” place for the next three years, he added. The vision, Floros said, is to find another location, which he said would be a “megafacility” for North County, rounding out the SDFB’s three-phase plan dubbed the North County Hunger Initiative.
Perishable donations from the public, though, cannot be accepted due to health and safety concerns and regulations, Floros said.
The final hub, he said, will include wrap-around services in addition to distributing food. The Vista facility will allow the food bank to push much more produce, along with having the appropriate refrigeration for frozen foods.
“We can do way more fresh produce, frozen products and serve more people,” Floros said. “We wanted to capitalize, we wanted people during the holidays when everybody is focused on hunger. We wanted North County residents to know that the North County Food Bank is stepping up to the plate.”
Chris Carter, vice president of communications for the SDFB, said the Vista facility, which was leased for three years, allows for more fresh food.
Additionally, it will also house the regional diaper bank to provide for low-income families. As for Dec. 5, Carter said the open house is designed to introduce the new initiative and facility to the community, as elected leaders, nonprofits and others have been invited, although it is open to the public as well.
“We really want to encourage businesses to come and volunteer at the facility,” he added. “We want to try and get more engagement with the community.”