In order to meet the demands of a growing community, the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank is looking to make some big changes in the future.
The Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank gave a presentation on the needs of the organization and their proposed plan for expansion at the Oct. 8 Issaquah City Council committee work session.
Attended by councilmembers Tola Marts, Stacy Goodman, Victoria Hunt, Chris Reh, and Bill Ramos, committee engaged in discussion with food bank executive director Cori Walters regarding their proposal to completely renovate the food bank’s current location.
The Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank is located at 179 First Ave. SE, a city owned parcel, and has operated out of the city-owned building for the past 20 years. The food bank serves the area covered by the Issaquah School District, and the clothing bank serves 15 ZIP codes throughout the Eastside, Walters said.
Walters came to the council to ask for the city’s questions and opinions on the proposed renovation.
The current plan is a complete renovation of the 5,250-square-foot building to triple the overall footage. The new building would have the same footprint, but would be expanded to three stories in order to give the organization room for daily operations and programs.
Over the past several years, Walters said, the food bank’s programs have grown significantly, which has led the current facility to exhaust all of its space and resources. As the population increases, so does the need for services.
The food bank not only offers grocery store services, but also has a “grocery to go” delivery program for home-bound citizens and people with severe transportation barriers, a clothing bank, and case management services to help community members connect with other local and regional resources in a one-on-one environment. It also hosts partner agencies offering human services and resources people at the food bank can easily access.
Walters said the food bank has more than 250 volunteers that provide about 1,800 hours of work each month for the community. With the level of service it provides, she said, the food bank still can’t meet the full community need, which is why a larger space is necessary.
“Our current programs have grown in such high demand that they are severely taxing our operational needs, and making it really difficult in our current building to do our work efficiently and sometimes safely,” Walters said. “We worked hard over the past few years to optimize our space as creatively as possible, and we feel we’ve exhausted every last inch of our building.”
Walters said a larger space could allow for a loading dock, expanded food warehouse, expanded refrigeration and freezer space, expanded food distribution area, expanded clothing bank store, and multiple private offices for case management and administration.
In a interview with the Issaquah Reporter, Walters said the food bank has had to rent out warehouse space at a secondary location to store food supplies. The food bank also has hired consulting firms to explore options while staff operate the food bank.
“We are just such a small staff and team, we need outsiders to help us start moving the needle so that in five years we are not having this same conversation,” she said. “We can’t let go of our day-to-day operations while looking at what’s next.”
The meeting with city councilmembers was the first step of engaging with community leaders for the new effort for expansion, Walters said, and the next year will see the conversation continue to develop possible options.
Walter reiterated that improving the capabilities of the food bank were vital to meet the growing need for those services in the community.
“This is ultimately about the families and individuals we serve,” she said. “We don’t want to fall behind and struggle to serve more people. We want to be the organizations moving the needle, making a difference, and serving more people.”
For more on the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank and information on how to volunteer, visit issaquahfoodbank.org.