GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Lifestyle

February 29, 2012

Food For Thought: Banking on our needy food supply

The Greater Boston Food Bank is a happy sad story.

It's happy that the green-tech building looks like a sleekly Scandinavian — big, bold, bright — box store, a looming silver, white and red warehouse with a Green Giant-size wheat stalk logo upon it.

Inside, natural light fills the vast brushed chrome spaces. The walls are solar. One of two vast refrigerators has a control on it that, when the outside temperature hovers at 55, the unit shuts off and uses the outdoors for cooling. This vanguard, 2-year-old year building is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified silver.

The sad news is that the Greater Boston Food Bank distributed more than 36.7 million pounds of groceries to 545,000 people who couldn't afford food last year, a 23 percent increase since a 2005 study.

The Greater Boston Food Bank is the largest hunger relief organization in New England, and among the largest food banks in the country.

Serving eastern Massachusetts, the food bank provides sustenance to 550 relief agencies —-food pantries, homeless shelters, transitional shelters, after-school programs, youth centers and senior centers. It's where your local soup kitchen shops for onions and cabbage.

Last week, I wrote about the North Shore Hunger Network, a group of relief agencies on the North Shore who meet once a month to collaborate on assistance issues.

The Food Bank is these agencies' Costco, their mother ship, their grandmotherly knee.

The Food Bank's new building works hard to make it easy for agencies to fill their shelves. A food pantry or church soup kitchen can place its entire order on line. The agency's truck backs up to a covered loading dock at the Food Bank where workers have already packed up the order. The docks are refrigerated for the safest possible transport of perishables.

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