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Capital Area Food Bank Doubles Capacity With New Facility

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The food bank's President and CEO, Lynn Brantley, says she plans to double their capacity for giving at the new facility. The CAFB currently services some 680,000 people, 200,000 of whom are children.
Markette Smith
The food bank's President and CEO, Lynn Brantley, says she plans to double their capacity for giving at the new facility. The CAFB currently services some 680,000 people, 200,000 of whom are children.

In response to a growing hunger crisis in the D.C. region, the Capital Area Food Bank is relocating to a sprawling new $37 million campus on Puerto Rico Avenue in Northeast, near the Fort Totten Metro station.

Opening Tuesday, the new facility will allow the Capital Area Food bank to double distribution capabilities, while putting an extra focus of freshness.

"On a normal day we'll do potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, collards greens — those seem to go a little bit faster than some of the dry goods here," says Stephen Shulman, a coordinator in the warehouse.

So to meet the demand for fresh foods, two large walk-in coolers were built into the facility. Each are the size of a three-story row house. This may seem like a lot just to store food, but Shulman says they can go through that much within a day or two, and demand is only going up. Calls to the food bank's hunger hotline are up 22 percent this year over last.

And with the growing demand, nutrition has taken center stage. A state-of-the-art test kitchen, complete with flat screen monitors for cooking demos, sits next to the 100,000 square foot warehouse. The whole facility was seven years in the making, and involved a lot of hard work, according to CEO and President Lynn Brantley.

"It's a struggle, and I’m always amazed that we’re able to do what we do, but we work very hard," says Brantley. "Of the 33 million pounds that we're going to do this year, 15 million of it, and more, is going to be fresh produce."

Jodi Balis, a dietician for the food bank, says the new design concept — having soup kitchen leaders not only come to pick up food, but go there learn about it, too — is meant to create a lasting impression that hits one right as he walks through the doors. "And then all of a sudden, you smell wonderful aromas wafting down the kitchen, says Balis. "And you walk into the this space, and there's a volunteer chef showcasing their own favorite recipes that their community likes. And then you taste it, and then you go shopping."

The District's Office of Housing and Community Development provided much of the funding for the new facility.

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