Greater Cleveland Food Bank, grounbreaking live stream, (4/14/21).
The Greater Cleveland Food Bank's CEO, Kristen Warzocha, members of the organization's board of directors, and city and county elected leaders ceremonially broke ground on a massive new facility Wednesday afternoon. Warzocha told a gathered crowd of supporters that the building, which will become the Food Bank's primary base of operations, will give the organization room to grow in the short and long term.
The Food Bank, which tripled the quantity of its food distribution in 2020 due to skyrocketing demand caused by the pandemic, has run out of space at its current facility on Waterloo, about five minutes by car from the new location on Coit Road in Cleveland's Collinwood neighborhood.
"We are completely and totally out of room," Warzocha told Scene last month
The new 197,000-square-foot facility will house all of the Food Bank's intake, distribution and production activities and will include additional space for dry food storage, cold storage space for perishable items, a larger kitchen for meal preparation, areas for volunteer projects, and additional space for community meetings and equipment.
According to an aggressive building timeline, the Food Bank would like to have the main facility built out and operable by the end of 2021. On that schedule, it would fully open in 2022, at which point the current facility would be converted to a "client-focused space" housing a number of social service providers under one roof. The thought is that a "one stop shop" for Food Bank clients would help combat barriers caused by transportation difficulties and would attack the root causes of food insecurity.
County Councilwoman Cheryl Stephens noted in her comments Wednesday that across the county, food insecurity was at 14% before the pandemic and has increased to 18-19%.
Warzocha called the facility "truly transformational" in the region's fight against hunger. Darnell Brown, the City of Cleveland's COO and the Food Bank's board chair, said that the board had "the ability and the responsibility to address longtime challenges with new ideas and creative solutions." Brown observed the ceremony via live stream from vacation in Florida, and his remarks were included in a press release.
The property on Coit, formerly home of the Fisher Auto Body plant, was donated to the Food Bank by Vic DiGeronimo of the DiGeronimo Companies. DiGeronimo serve on the Food Bank's board and now has multiple companies (both DiGeronimo and Independence Excavating) under contract for the facility's construction.
Warzocha announced Wednesday that in gratitude for the donation of the property, the street connecting Coit Road to the facility itself will henceforth be called "DiGeronimo Drive."
Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.