Durham Food Bank to open new warehouse
The number of empty stomachs in Durham is growing, and that’s why the Food Bank is about to open a larger warehouse.
A ribbon-cutting for the 29,000-square-foot branch at 2700 Angier Ave. is set for 10 a.m. Thursday and will increase capacity by 60 percent.
The Durham location has seen an 83 percent increase in need since it opened in 1999, according to Christy Simmons, public relations manager for the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.
In January, it distributed its 60 millionth pound of food.
The regional Food Bank opened a branch on Ramseur Street in Durham 15 years ago to better serve Durham and surrounding counties. In its first year, it had a staff of one and distributed 748,438 pounds of food, Simmons said.
As the number of employees and pounds of food it distributed grew, the branch upgraded to an 18,500-square-foot building on Gilbert Street.
But as hunger continued to surge, the new warehouse became necessary.
The Durham branch also serves Orange, Chatham, Person, Chatham and Vance counties. In fiscal year 2012-13, it distributed more than 6.2 million pounds of food to more than 170 partner agencies – including food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens and group homes. In the past four years, the Durham branch experienced a 12 percent growth in distribution.
That’s no surprise to the Rev. Haywood Holderness, retired pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, who helped get the Durham branch started. Holderness has also served as the Food Bank’s board chairman.
Before 1999, Durham-area agencies had to pick up food from the nearest Food Bank, which was in Raleigh. Making that drive became time-consuming, which spurred Holderness to push for a Durham location.
“The need for food by the many agencies that the Food Bank serves in central and eastern North Carolina got greater and greater,” Holderness said.
Jane Cox, then-president of the Food Bank, helped create branches in the state.
“No one had branches when she came to work, but when she left, there were branches in Durham, Wilmington, the Sandhills and Greenville,” Holderness said. “It was the fastest-growing Food Bank in the United States, and was primarily because of her vision of saying: ‘Let’s don’t do it all from one place. Let’s set up these branch warehouses.’ ’’
Holderness met resistance at first. But eventually, “they decided it was a good idea to have one in Durham, mainly because of the difficulty of getting to Raleigh from Durham and Chapel Hill.”
Holderness calls Durham’s new warehouse “wonderful,” but he wishes there was no need for it.
“I just find it immoral for anybody in North Carolina to have to go without food,” Holderness said. “Many people have to decide whether they’re going to buy food or pay the light bill, buy food or take their daughter to the doctor.”
But Holderness praised the Food Bank for its responsible use of donors’ money.
“The Food Bank is about the most efficient nonprofit I’ve ever known,” he said. “The auditors tell us that less than 4 cents of every dollar that’s contributed goes to administration. The rest goes to food and delivery.”
Durham Mayor Bill Bell said the city’s anti-poverty initiative means ensuring that people have food.
“The Food Bank helps supplement those in need,” Bell said. “If you ever want to see the face of poverty, come around on holidays to the Durham Rescue Mission and the Food Bank. The new warehouse is certainly needed, and I’m glad they’ve chosen to expand in Durham.”