mycentraljersey.com: Food Bank Network of Somerset County will offer supermarket experience at new location
BRIDGEWATER – The Food Bank Network of Somerset County is moving into a much larger space that will provide clients with more of a grocery shopping-style experience.
Its new facility at 7E Easy St., just two buildings down from the food bank’s current location, intends to open to clients on Tuesday, Feb. 16, according to Gordon White, board of directors president.
The 9,860-square-foot space is about 60% larger than its current location, which will bring positive changes for the almost 40-year-old nonprofit organization, Gordon said.
"It's a nice expansion," he said. "We are gaining four times the refrigeration capacity and we will be able to provide and properly store more cold items – meats, vegetables, dairy – for our clients."
Gordon said the new food bank will have a “client choice” area, about three times the size of the previous space for clients, where they can make their own food selections.
"The same as you would see in a ShopRite or a Wegmans," Gordon explained. "…When the family shows up, they will be given a budget of items they can choose for their family size. But they can pick and choose – whatever fits their diet and their menu."
The client choice model gives clients more dignity, he said.
"We were, along with many other food banks and pantries, moving in that direction before COVID," Gordon said. "That was the new idea and COVID just stopped it in its tracks. Now, with everybody feeling a bit more comfortable and more compliance with masks and social distancing, we are pretty sure we will pursue the client choice model and get that back into place. We think it provides a much better client environment and experience and lets them get food that they will use."
Gordon said the new facility will follow the same COVID-19 guidelines that grocery stores follow.
The Food Bank Network, which had been eyeing a move to a new location for about eight years, had been financially preparing for it.
Funds were set aside in advance of its current lease ending in 2022 for the potential of a new facility. The current lease has been rolled into the new lease, Gordon said.
"Working with the same landlord made some of the logistics of moving and redesigning some of the space much easier," he said, adding the landlord, Terreno Middlebrook LLC, is only charging rent on one of the spaces during the move. "They have been very easy and very generous to work with that way."
The pandemic has resulted in more clients visiting the food bank, Gordon said, adding it’s serving about 50 families per day, five days a week.
In addition to the main facility, the Food Bank Network runs three pantries, in Somerville, Bound Brook and North Plainfield, which also feed about 50 families when open.
"It's a lot. Our average size of the family has gone up because of COVID and the change in the clients," Gordon said. "Each family is now a little bit more than four people on average whereas a year ago, the numbers seemed to be working to three and a quarter per family."
"There is some excitement and there is some trepidation," Gordon added. "There is some understanding and there is some, 'I don't know how this is going to work.' All of those things are in place. It's going to be different, but it should be energizing for all of us and most importantly, we think it is going to be better for the clients."
For more information go to www.somersetfoodbank.org, visit the Food Bank Network on Facebook or call 732-560-1813. The warehouse is open from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Monetary donations can be sent to P.O. Box 149, Bound Brook, NJ, 08805.