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New food shelf site provides space to meet hunger needs

Representatives of the Bemidji Community Food Shelf stand outside of its planned new location in the Industrial Park. Pictured are, from left, Jack Judkins, the coordinator of the food shelf; June Roxstrom, an interviewer; and Bill Beyer, the president of the board. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI - In addition to its main site, the Bemidji Community Food Shelf has about a half-dozen storage locations sprinkled throughout the area.

It simply has outgrown its current space.

Supporters now are planning to relocate the operation to a much-larger facility in the Industrial Park. The food shelf has a purchase agreement in place for the old ODC building, 1260 Industrial Park Drive SE.

"This is about six times bigger," said Jack Judkins, the coordinator of the food shelf while outside of the new building Monday.

A $100,000 matching grant has been awarded to the food shelf from the George W. Nielsen Foundation to assist in the planned relocation.

"The new facility will provide the food shelf with the opportunity to become more efficient and take advantage of cost savings by purchasing and taking in larger quantities of food," Judkins wrote in a news release.

The food shelf, which serves 2,500 people each month, now is located on Fourth Street Northwest across from Bemidji City Hall.

When asked if he thought moving out of downtown would be a negative, Judkins said a survey showed more than 90 percent of the food shelf's clients do not have transportation issues.

Additionally, he said, the food shelf has contacted Paul Bunyan Transit about the planned moved.

"They're willing to work with us," he said.

Bill Beyer, the president of the food shelf board of directors, said the St. Cloud area food shelf, which handles 1 million pounds of food annually versus Bemidji's 380,000, is located similarly in a light industrial area of the community.

It's not unusual, Judkins noted.

In all, Judkins said supporters are aiming to raise $450,000, which includes the purchase price and additional costs for coolers and freezers.

The public fundraising campaign will kick off Sunday. The food shelf has until June 1 to execute the purchase agreement while the Nielsen grant's required match must be paid by October. 1.

Judkins said the hope is to relocate the food shelf in mid- to late-summer.

"The goal of the fundraising drive is to raise more than the cost of the building," he said.

That would allow the food shelf to bring in-house all of its storage needs.

"Everything would be right here," Judkins said.

"The parking is better here too," added June Roxstrom, an interviewer with the food shelf.

With the improvements, the new location would allow the food shelf to operate more efficiently, Judkins noted.

In addition to the main building, the proposed site also contains an outbuilding, providing about 18,000 square feet of usable space, Judkins said.

He said he has already been contacted by about four nonprofit groups looking for either office or storage space in the new location.

"We're just not sure yet much space we're going to use ourselves yet," Judkins said. "We hope to be able to offer space to others, especially if their (missions) are similar to ours."

To donate to the food shelf or to volunteer, contact Judkins at 444-6580.