FISH Food Bank to combine operations under one roof with $5 million expansion set for April

Omar Benitez, Senior Reporter

The planned $5 million 6,000 square feet expansion to FISH Food Bank is set to begin construction in April, with plans for completion set for November.

According to FISH Food Bank CEO Peggy Morache, the plans for the expansion include an expansion of the existing 2,500 square foot food bank; as well as renovations to the existing food pantry and the creation of a new reception, client services and education center will house several social service agencies. 

“We recognize the fact that people need more than just food,” Morache said. “We needed a more holistic approach to helping people who rely on us. So that’s why we want to include an education and services center because our goal is to help people move beyond a place where they’re in need.”

According to Morache, plans for the warehouse expansion have been in the works for over five years due to how much food they receive and distribute around the county.

“This expansion is crucial for us,” Morache said. “This food bank warehouse receives and stores about one and a half million pounds of food a year and then distributes that food to the food pantries located all over the county. To try to do that with that much food in a 2,500 square feet facility is very difficult.”

Expansion proposal. Photo courtesy of FISH Food Bank.

According to Morache, FISH is currently using the old Rodeo City Barbecue building as a food service building for distribution, due to zoning restrictions and lack of space and resources at the current facility. 

The new warehouse expansion will allow for all these services to be under one roof and allow FISH to work out of one central location to be more efficient, Morache said.

The new warehouse will help FISH have the resources and facility to better deal with storage and distribution of food, Morache said.

“This new building will allow us to have a new commercial freezer and commercial refrigerator and also do state of the art materials handling,” Morache said. “We basically run a grocery warehouse here, so distribution is really important for us.” 

Morache said the plan is to have one large central location that will be able to take care of food handling, storage and distribution, as well as housing the food pantry and education center.

Morache said the over $5 million in funding comes from a combination of fundraising throughout the years, state funding, as well as federal funding including a Community Services Block Grant. $900,000 from community project funding was secured by Washington state representative Kim Schrier. 

According to Morache, the new expansion and renovations will be done in two phases. The first phase is planned to take place from April to Nov. and focus on the 6,000 square foot expansion, which will house the new food bank and food service center.

The second phase is planned to start after the completion of the first phase and will be completed by mid summer of next year. It will focus on the renovations of the current 2,500 square foot facility which will include the new education and services center as well as a renovated, and larger food pantry.

Morache said another one of her motivations for this project is to improve the experience for those using the pantry.

“We want to make the space more cheerful and let people have the ability to choose their own groceries from a variety of options,” Morache said. “We want the experience to be as pleasant as possible.”

According to Morache, food bank operations will not be affected once construction begins in April.