Like most non-profits, they started with much passion and energy, but very limited resources.
Central California Food Bank started with a temporary facility, the Home and Garden Building within the Fresno Fairgrounds, where they were allowed to store food as they were getting started. But with the Fair fast approaching, Central California Food Bank moved to its first home, a small warehouse in Calwa that had previously been the home of a mattress manufacturer. Ironically, this location is just a block away from the current location on Central Ave. Central California Food Bank outgrew that location in a couple of years and moved to a storefront on the Fulton Mall, which was home for the next five years.
During these years Central California Food Bank also faced its first disaster relief effort, the “Freeze of 1999”. Efforts grew from distributing just under 2 million pounds of food per year to almost 6 million pounds per year.
By 2002 Central California Food Bank had outgrown the facilities on the Fulton Mall and moved operations to Thorne Avenue. During the years at Thorne Avenue Central California Food Bank continued to distribute food through an increasing number of agencies, and began adding direct distributions to services.
It was during those five years on the Fulton Mall that Central California Food Bank joined America’s Second Harvest, now known as Feeding America, began serving Madera and Kings Counties, and more importantly, began collecting and distributing fresh produce.
In 2007 Central California Food Bank moved to its current location on Central Avenue, and has seen the most dramatic increase in the amount of food being distributed. In 2007, Central California Food Bank distributed just under 8 million pounds of food per year to 40 million pounds of food distributed in fiscal year 2017. As of July 1, 2014, Central California Food Bank began serving Tulare County as well.
Since 2007, Central California Food Bank has added many new services for the families served, including farmers market style distributions through mobile pantries and neighborhood markets, a nutrition on wheels program where recipes and teaching demonstrations are provided to teach people how to prepare healthy food, using a custom food truck. Ten local schools also have a BackPack program, whereby elementary school children are given a backpack with enough healthy food to serve their family for the weekend.
These programs, along with the more than 200 partner agencies, have enabled Central California Food Bank to distribute 40 million pounds of food. They have also helped dramatically increase the amount of fresh produce distributed. Because of the generosity of the local farming community over half of the product served is in fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the farm. This is critically important due to the ongoing challenges of diabetes and childhood obesity that are faced by many of the families served in the Central Valley.