Today I attended a Lowcountry Food Bank volunteer orientation class. Last Friday, I got a tour of their facility on Azalea Drive, North Charleston, and I decided it was time to volunteer. In my last blog I outlined the numbers that show the great need in SC's 10 coastal counties. Follow along with me as I learn more about the LCFB and what its like to be a volunteer there.
I guess the best place to start is with some highlights in the history of the LCFB. Founded by donations and support from the Coastal Community Foundation of SC and Trident United Way in 1983, then then called "Food Trust", LCFB began its mission to feed the hungry in the coastal counties. It started out helping Charleston-area food pantries and soup kitchens. As it grew, it moved from the State Ports Authority Building in North Charleston to a 10,000 sf buiulding in Ladson, SC.
In 1990 its name was changed to the Lowcountry Food Bank and had expanded its reach providing food to partner agencies in the coastal counties. In 1997, the LCFB was distributing over 900,000 lbs of food assistance to 96 partner feeding agencies. The LCFB continued to grow and in 2000, opened a 6500 sf regional center in Yemassee which prompted the establishment of a 9300 sf regional food center in Myrtle Beach.
People have the misconception that the LCFB is a food pantry or a soup kitchen. It is neither. It is a food distribution warehouse that, through its partner agencies delivered over 18,000,000 lbs. of food assistance in 2011.
Where does the LCFB get its food? It comes from a number of places such as retail stores like Publix and Wal-mart just to mention a couple. It also gets food from food drives, and local growers as well as from the USDA.
In 2005, the LCFB was faced with losing its rent-free Charleston Distribution Center due to the Noisette Company redevelopment project in North Charleston. Their leadership saw this as an opportunity to increase their impact on the community with a $5 million "Growing Forward" capital campaign. Through the hard work of their Capital campaign Committee, they were able to purchase the Paul Hulsey Community Food and Nutrition Center in 2007, and moved into the facility in November 2008.
The 60,000 square-foot facility has meeting rooms for community use, as well as nutrition education classes and workshops. It has the Zucker Family Production Kitchen where they can prepare over 100,000 meals for children and seniors. It has over 4,000 sf of cooler and freezer space for perishable items. Also included are loading docks, storage space, and room for product sorting which is equipped to process over 20 million lbs. of donated food annually.
So, there is more than meets the eye when you ride by their facility. Since I just went through volunteer orientation, I do not have first-hand knowledge of the various operations. I will provide more information about my personal experiences and more infornation about the LCFB in future blogs. If you can't wait for my blogs, you can go to the LCFB web site at www.lowcountryfoodbank.org.
If you want to volunteer too check the LCFB website for information about the next orientation session available.