St. Vincent de Paul given OK to build food bank in Pasco

By Kristi Pihl

Tri-City Herald, September 12, 2011

St. Vincent de Paul Society is closer to opening a new food bank in downtown Pasco.

The nonprofit has permission to build a food bank on 1.7 acres it now owns along Fifth Avenue, north of A Street.

It's needed because the city intends to buy the land where the current food bank is located for the $31 million Lewis Street Overpass project, which will replace an aging underpass.

The Pasco City Council unanimously approved a special permit last week that will allow the nonprofit to open a food bank and clothing distribution center on the BNSF Railway Co. property the nonprofit purchased on July 29.

The property, at 215 S. Sixth Ave., cost $76,000, said Sina Pierret, the society's president and food bank manager. The society earmarked money for the property from bequests because the volunteer board knew the food bank would eventually need to move.

The nonprofit and city have yet to reach an agreement on the sale of the current food bank property at 115 W. Lewis St., Pierret said. Money from the sale will go toward the cost of the new building.

The property is one of two the city still needs to purchase between Second and Tacoma avenues and Clark and Lewis streets, said Stan Strebel, Pasco deputy city manager.

Now that the nonprofit has the property and special permit, Pierret said the group is ready to continue applying for grants and seeking donations. She expects to kick off a fundraising campaign this fall.

Pierret estimates the society will need about $1 million for the project, which will expand the food bank to about 15,000 square feet.

The food bank distributes food to needy Franklin County families Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Last week, the food bank gave out 545 boxes of food.

In August, the food bank helped 2,888 families. The food bank distributed 187,161 pounds of food, Pierret said.

The society has continued to see a growth in multi-generational households, where families share homes because of unemployment and economic challenges, she said.

The new food bank will help make the operation more efficient, Pierret said.

The building includes room for about 55 people to wait inside for food rather than outside in snow or rain, and it will have an awning for those who do not fit into the waiting area. It should also include about 95 parking spaces.

The entrances to the food bank will be off of Fifth and Sixth avenues, according to the design by Pasco architect Devi Tate.

A 4,000-square-foot distribution area will be the front entrance for clients and will be connected to a nearly 11,000-square-foot pre-engineered steel building that includes storage for food and a larger freezer and cooler, according to the design.

The larger freezer and cooler will allow the group to accept large donations of perishable foods, Pierret said. Right now, about 17 pallets will fit in the freezer and 12 in the cooler.

The new building will be able to fit 48 pallets each in the cooler and freezer, she said.