PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles Food Bank will give food to clients next Wednesday from a new site that is both larger than the nonprofit’s present home and which provides a covered outdoor area to protect clients and staff in winter.
The food bank is moving from 402 S. Valley St., to a newly leased building at 632 N. Oakridge Drive — near the Port Angeles Walmart Superstore — where it will distribute food from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each Wednesday and Friday.
At 2,600 square feet, the building is “almost twice what we have now,” said Emily Dexter, executive director, on Wednesday.
The newly leased space “will allow the food bank to meet many of the challenges created by COVID-19, as well creating new opportunities for future expanded services,” she said in a press release.
In addition, this Saturday, the Clallam County Community Point of Distribution will hand out food from the food bank’s new site instead of its present location at Ninth and B streets, Dexter said. The food distribution will begin at 10 a.m. and continue until food runs out.
Under Dexter’s leadership, the food bank had switched to a grocery-store model, in which clients were assigned points depending on household size and shopped for what they needed, using the points like money. Healthier food choices cost fewer points.
That had to change with COVID-19 precautions. In March, it switched to outdoor drive-through distribution to shield clients and staff from exposure to the unique coronavirus.
“This worked well during the warmer months but will have clients and volunteers outside in the harsh weather on the way,” Dexter said in the release.
“The new facility has a large covered outdoor area which will allow for a safer, drier and warmer distribution process.”
The new location also offers abundant storage for fresh food, which has been woefully inadequate at the current location, Dexter said.
“Over the summer we had to turn down several truckloads of fresh food from various sources because of the lack of refrigeration,” she said.
“We acquired an emergency refrigerated container to handle the overflow, but that filled up fast, and we never had enough space.”
Dexter said the ability to store fresh food is critical to provide clients with the produce and dairy that are the mainstays of healthy eating.
“Unfortunately, food that is more shelf-stable also tends to be more highly processed,” Dexter said in the release. “The new building has a huge chiller room, which will greatly support our mission to provide as much fresh, nutritious food as possible to our clients.”
Dexter said the new building contains a 500-square-foot freezer and will allow the food bank to expand into 6,500 square feet of refrigeration if needed.
The building was formerly a beer distribution warehouse.
“It needs work both inside and out to transform it into a food bank that is equipped to meet the current level of food insecurity in Clallam County,” Dexter said.
Once COVID-19 restrictions are eased — “hopefully next spring” — the building is big enough to allow the food bank to return to the indoor grocery-store model, she said.
Clients and volunteers can get the latest information by visiting portangelesfoodbank.org or the Port Angeles Food Bank Facebook page.
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].