OGDEN — A 12,000-square-foot warehouse added to Catholic Community Services of Northern Utah’s Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank will almost triple the storage space of the largest food pantry in the area. The extra space will help CCS expand its ability to provide groceries over the weekend to schoolchildren who are enrolled in the free or reduced lunch program but have limited access to food when they’re not in school, said Maresha Bosgieter, director of CCS Northern Utah.
“This is really going to be the key in expanding our childhood hunger program, Bridging the Gap,” she said. “We can’t grow the program because we don’t have the space to store food.”
Currently, the Bridging the Gap program feeds 4,000 students each month at nine schools in the Ogden and Weber school districts. However, statistics show that 20,000 children in the area are enrolled in the free or reduced cost lunch program.
In addition to the Bridging the Gap program, the Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank serves 2,000 households every month, including more than 200 home deliveries to the elderly or disabled.
“Most clients are working families, the elderly and disabled or those suffering a temporary setback such as a medical emergency or loss of a job,” according to CCS Northern Utah.
“Last year we gave out 3 million pounds of food in our community, so there is definitely a lot of need here. We served almost 80,000 people, over 60 percent of them were children, which are staggering numbers,” Bosgieter said.
The new warehouse also will add needed space; CCS has in the past occasionally had to turn away a donation because they had no place to store it, Bosgieter said. The addition will have rack storage and room for pallets, “and a bigger, safer place for our volunteers [to work] as well,” she said.
Also, during inclement weather, the Bridging the Gap truck will be able to be pulled into the warehouse for loading so that the items for the children don’t get wet, she said.
The Sept. 6 groundbreaking for the warehouse was “a beautiful moment of hope and gladness,” Bishop Oscar A. Solis said.
“I truly commend the efforts of Catholic Community Services as well as the partnerships with the different organizations in this part of the state,” he said. “What you do is a beautiful model of what community life is all about.”
Among the community representatives at the groundbreaking was Weber County Commissioner James Ebert, who mentioned that local officials were dealing with the wildfire burning in Weber Canyon that day, “so we’ve seen the firsthand value of community partners and how important they are, and Catholic Community Services is the group that we go to all the time. Everywhere I go, this is who I run into when we’re dealing with issues of homeless or poverty.”
The warehouse, which will connect to the existing building, will allow trucks to unload directly off of F Street, and box trucks will be off-loaded from the rear entrance, said Mark Hilles of Mountain West Architects, the architectural firm for the project.
Construction is anticipated to begin in October, with an estimated opening date of February, Bosgieter said.
Major donors for the project were the ALSAM Foundation, the Brent & Ann Wilson Foundation and Bob Steiner & Family.
“We do have the majority of our funding raised already, but we are still actively fundraising to finish off the items that go inside as well,” Bosgieter said. Among the needed items are a refrigerator/freezer, an industrial-sized scale, another forklift, and additional bins and racks, she said.