On a nearly unbearably hot Thursday afternoon, volunteers and employees from the State College Food Bank strapped on their hard hats and picked up their shovels for a groundbreaking ceremony celebrating the food bank’s new location.
The food bank announced in June 2022 it would be moving to 169 Gerald St. — the former home of Apple Hill Antiques — but will continue operations at its 1321 S. Atherton St. location until renovations are complete.
Construction on the $4.3 million project, which includes gutting the interior as well as major renovations to the parking lot, will begin on Monday. The new location will not only provide double the space but also help consolidate services for families in need, executive director Allayn Beck said.
“We want to make sure that we’re able to serve all the individuals and families coming through our doors but also be our support system for all the other pantries and feeding programs throughout the county,” Beck said.
The new location will allow SCFB to double the services they provide, with larger capacity for frozen or refrigerated foods, produce sorting space and intake area for clients. Having that extra space is more important than ever as the number of people facing food insecurity continues to climb. SCFB saw a 40% increase in services in 2022 and Beck said he was consistently busy every day.
“We saw a big increase when the SNAP benefits decreased, that was a big hit,” Beck said. “And now we always see an increase in summer. So, my guess if I had to predict it’s all just going to keep going up.”
The renovations are expected to take around nine months, with SCFB hoping to be completely moved into the new location by March 2024. Dennis Herr from Poole Anderson Construction said the timeline is “very ambitious” but is convinced it can be done.
“A lot of work to get done in nine months, but it’s achievable,” Herr said.
Among the scores of volunteers and community members were several members of the Penn State football team. Players Golden Israel-Achumba and Ibrahim Traore spoke about food insecurity and their independent fundraising campaigns for SCFB this spring.
“Everyone should be able to eat whenever they’re hungry,” Israel-Achumba said. “To be able to help relieve that in any way, like doing something small to be able to do something big, it means a lot.”
The players attended as part of the Success With Honor initiative at Penn State. The program helps connect athletes with local organizations and nonprofits to help promote local causes and give student athletes a valuable experience in the community. Sara Jackson, director of event and athlete engagement for Success With Honor, said the program is a way for athletes to help their communities and be involved in issues they are passionate about.
“It shows what’s underneath the helmet,” Jackson said. “These are regular people. These are people’s kids who have interests.”