By Lexy Vorhies
Volunteer Blogger, Tarrant Area Food Bank
Clank, clank. Buzz, buzz. Beep, beep. Right now, these sounds and more are routine in the Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) Distribution Center. After an exciting 20-plus years with the same layout, it’s getting a face-lift. The changes will help TAFB provide more food to the 13 counties it serves.
TAFB Executive Director Bo Soderbergh said the current coolers and freezers are getting old and aren’t as efficient as they could be. “It certainly, to some extent I think, entails a barrier to us being able to store and distribute well. The new equipment we’re putting in is going to be vastly larger.”
Over the years, TAFB went from handling more canned foods to handling more fresh and frozen foods. “We’re realigning the new equipment to handle the kind of food we handle now, as opposed to the kind of food we handled 20 years ago. We’ve learned a lot over time about logistics, product flow and more,” shared Bo.
Partners Step Up During Distribution Center Transition
The renovations for the new Distribution Center plan will occur for about 12 months, but construction has already started. Before changes began, TAFB formed a construction committee to go over the ins and outs of the project. Lety Fraley, TAFB director of operations, is a part of that committee. “We talked about the impact of things moving, having a construction crew here and more,” said Lety. “To begin, we started moving product out to make room for the areas we will not be able to use.”
Next on the list was figuring out the best way to get food to TAFB Partner Agencies during the transition. About 40 agencies have stepped up to help during the construction at 2600 Cullen St. “We are now going to deliver to them. So instead of them coming here with their big trucks, we will be taking food to them. That will help with traffic flow,” Lety shared. The Partner Agencies that have the food delivered straight to their offices or pantries and provide the food directly to the clients are a very important part of the work TAFB does.
Because Teamwork Changes Things
When discussing the unique aspect of the Partner Agencies, Associate Executive Director Bennett Cepak said, “What we do best here at TAFB is we source food in great quantities. So we will bring in 36 million pounds of food, and only about 11 percent of that will be distributed directly to a client by us. That is not our bread and butter. That is not what we do best. What we do best is sourcing in bulk, breaking that bulk, checking everything for wholesomeness to make sure that the food is safe and nutritious, repackaging and then distributing to our Partner Agencies, to our feeding partners, who then take it the last mile to the clients. Without them we would not exist.”
With the newly renovated Distribution Center, agencies will be able to provide more nutritious meals directly to the clients. Community Link Mission in Saginaw, Texas is one of those partners. “Tarrant Area Food Bank is working to end hunger and we’re doing the same thing. We’re just doing it up in this neck of the woods,” said Community Link Mission Assistant Director Lara Gay.
She said that TAFB has been a great source of direction and insight. “Anytime we bump up against a wall they are a great partner to talk to and collaborate with. They give us a different perspective, which is a growth perspective and a capacity perspective. It’s just a great partnership. We wouldn’t be able to exist without TAFB, but TAFB wouldn’t be able to exist without us. The food bank could be collecting all this food, but without pantries to give it out to the community, the community wouldn’t receive food. We couldn’t do what we do without them and vice versa.”
When You’re Working Toward the Same Goal
Truly, TAFB would not exist without the collaboration, teamwork and positive relationships that exist with donors and Partner Agencies who are all working toward the same goal. With the newly renovated Distribution Center, these partnerships and relationships with agencies and donors in the 13 counties served will only be strengthened.
To help TAFB complete the necessary renovations, consider making a financial gift.