An expansion of goodness in Coastal Georgia
AMERICA’S SECOND HARVEST of Coastal Georgia is a regional food bank that serves as the food warehouse and distribution center for more than 241 nonprofit organizations and churches in our community. In 2021, in collaboration with food relief programs and partner agencies, they distributed more than 28.1 million pounds of food to locals in need through their five programs: Kids Cafe, Partner Market Place, Brown Bag for the Elderly, Mobile Food Pantry and the School Pantry program.
Kids Cafe, which was founded in Savannah in 1989, is the third largest childhood hunger initiative in the United States. Meals are prepared in Second Harvest’s production kitchen and delivered to more than 85 locations in Coastal Georgia, including schools, community centers, Boys and Girls Clubs and churches — roughly 831,300 nutritious meals per year. And yet, there is a wait list of places seeking meals that they simply can’t accommodate in their current kitchen.
Even more worrisome is its location. “Our current facilities are in low-lying areas prone to localized flooding,” says Mary Jane Crouch, the organization’s executive director. “If Savannah experiences a major hurricane, it’s projected that the current food bank location would take months to reopen for service.”
So, in April 2021, Second Harvest submitted a grant request to help them build a new facility that would be both inland and double the size. In December 2021, they received that grant.
“So many in our community have come together to make this dream a reality, and we are confident that these efforts will allow us to feed the future and provide essential nutrition to our neighbors in need.” – Mary Jane Crouch, executive director, America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia
Second Harvest breaks ground on their new 1380 Chatham Parkway location this month — right in time for Hunger Action Month. And supply chain willing, their new home will be completed in December of 2023.
In addition to the imperative of remaining on dry land, they will go from operating out of multiple buildings on nonadjacent sites to one 143,226-square-foot facility. Their new production kitchen will be more than double the size of their old one, which means they’ll be able to provide more meals to children through Kids Cafe and their Summer Feeding programs. Due to cooler space, their current capacity is 4,500 hot meals a day. The new kitchen will allow for 10,000.
Their new warehouse will provide additional storage, cooler and freezer space, which will allow the organization to accept more food donations; it will be safer and more efficient for staff; and it will have 10 dock spaces as opposed to two — so drivers won’t have to wait an hour to load in the mornings and unload in the afternoons.
“We are also adding a childhood nutrition center,” Crouch shares excitedly, “and a learning center where we will be able to provide partner and community classes on nutrition and food safety and be a resource for people who need meeting space.”
Their volunteer center will also double its size. “We are so grateful to the Department of Community Affairs, Savannah Economic Development Authority and Chatham County for their vision and support in what will truly be transformational for our community and all of coastal Georgia,” says Crouch. “So many in our community have come together to make this dream a reality, and we are confident that these efforts will allow us to feed the future and provide essential nutrition to our neighbors in need.”