The Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma broke ceremonial ground on a sixth expansion that will allow the nonprofit to serve almost three times as many meals.
Build Hope is the $28 million capital expansion project that is four years in the making for the Tulsa-based nonprofit. Board members, donors, local dignitaries and supporters gathered Friday at the food bank’s headquarters at 1304 N. Kenosha Ave. to celebrate.
Updates to the culinary center, including commercial-grade kitchen equipment, will allow the agency to increase its service to 40,000 meals per week, up from 11,000.
Friday’s ceremony began with acknowledgement of the land north of the Greenwood District that will be built upon as home of the Osage, Cherokee and Muscogee nations. Speaker Felicia Antonio with the food bank also acknowledged African Americans affected by the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
“We wish to honor the lives, culture, wisdom and sacrifice that grew from this land as we continue our work of supporting our neighbors facing food insecurity,” Antonio said.
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Mayor G.T. Bynum said he was grateful for the acknowledgement of the land and said it “does a great purpose of reminding us of the history of place.”
“The Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma serves as the convener for those who want to help those who need it,” Bynum said. “That’s how you end up distributing over 32 million pounds of food in a year through over 200 partners regionally.”
The food bank works with 400 partner agencies to fight food insecurity in 24 counties across eastern Oklahoma. The expansion project will expand the warehouse 30% and increase capacity in the culinary center and volunteer center, as well as increase partner agency access.
“I’m excited about being able to double the capacity to serve people in our projected service area,” said Calvin Moore, president and CEO of the food bank. “It’s celebratory for so many reasons, but particularly because we’re able to come together and really rejoice in our ability to serve our community.”
The first employee of the food bank and its first executive director, Bill Major — now the Zarrow Family Foundations’ executive director — spoke about the agency’s history.
“With our priorities being hunger, homelessness and mental health, a strong food bank network and the utilization of all federal food assistance programs are essential ingredients to combating food insecurity,” Major said. “There is a bright future for the food bank as it expands for the sixth time.”
The food bank began in 1981 as a Neighbor for Neighbor program. It moved into a facility at 1150 N. Iroquois Ave. in 1986. A renovation in 1990 expanded the facility to 25,000 square feet. In 2005, the nonprofit moved all its operations to one facility on Kenosha.
The Zarrow Family Foundations have been contributing to the food bank since the 1980s; other Build Hope donors include the Mabee Foundation, the A.R. and Marylouise Tandy Foundation, the Sanford and Irene Bernstein Foundation, the Helmig Family Trust, the George Kaiser Family Foundation and Morningcrest Healthcare Foundation.
“We realize that not all gifts are equal, but all sacrifices are,” Moore said.
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