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Food Bank Market Opens on the Business Loop

Food Bank Market Opens on the Business Loop

  • Photos by Lana Eklund
  • This story was originally published in the November 2023 issue of COMO Magazine.
  • This story was updated with corrections on November 14, 2023.
Interior of The Food Bank Market
The Food Bank Market and Compass Health exterior signage
Exterior entrance of The Food Bank Market
Red grocery carts stacked into a straight line
Product display with a sign clarifying allocation +9
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The Food Bank Market and Compass Health exterior signage

The Food Bank Market reflects an innovative rebranding effort.

An on-site medical clinic is just one of the new features that showcases the ambitious rebranding and relocation of The Food Bank’s distribution operations from Central Pantry on Big Bear Boulevard to the former Moser’s Foods store on the Business Loop.

The new Food Bank Market opened to the public on November 1 at 705 Business Loop 70 West. The Food Bank Market will partner with other organizations, alongside food distribution, to make other services available in one place. And because food insecurity is often coupled with other economic and health challenges, the new facility will include medical care provided onsite by Compass Health.

“Our goal is to better address the needs of the whole person for neighbors working toward food security,” says Lindsay Young Lopez, CEO and president of The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri. “Food banks are accustomed to being creative and adaptable so we know how we plan to use the space, but there are ways we don’t even know about yet that this new facility can be utilized to serve the community.”

An official ribbon-cutting event is scheduled for May 2024. The food bank’s administrative and warehouse work at 2101 Vandiver Drive will continue at that location.

More than 10 years ago The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri, which serves 32 counties in mid-Missouri, created a new resource known as the Central Pantry. The program offered supplemental food for the residents of Boone County experiencing hunger. Today, Central Pantry serves as a resource to nearly 10,000 residents each month, a number that has continued to increase every year. 

“Food insecurity is very prevalent in Boone County, throughout the state, and throughout the country,” says Young Lopez. She notes that one in seven children and one in eight adults are defined as “food insecure” or regularly lacking access to healthy food.

Healthy food, healthy clients

As the Central Pantry worked to meet the community’s increasing need for supplemental, nutritious food, Young Lopez and the Food Bank’s administration were limited in the resources they were able to provide due to the setting and smaller size of the 14,000-square-foot facility off Big Bear Boulevard. 

She says the Food Bank is committed to providing nutritious foods and that nearly 65 percent of the food provided is perishable produce, meats, dairy, and canned and frozen vegetables. She adds, “There is a direct correlation between access to healthy foods and the health of the clients we serve.”

In the spring of 2021, The Food Bank purchased the Business Loop location with the help of generous donations from local entities such as the Veterans United Foundation and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Renovations began in winter 2022, followed by a capital campaign launched in May 2023. As of mid-October, the campaign had raised nearly $6.5 million of the $7 million goal.

The Central Pantry’s new home, renamed as The Food Bank Market, is a 40,000-square-foot facility nearly three times the size of the current location and is both accessible and visible from the nearby access to Interstate 70. 

“This new space is a change for good,” Young Lopez says. “The rebrand of The Central Pantry to The Food Bank Market will help the community understand the tie to The Food Bank, as well as eliminate the stigma related to the term ‘pantry.’ We are really proud of the innovation we are creating.”

The tour

Visitors will enter through one of the two front doors into the Sharing Room, which will be accessible to everyone, regardless of income or county residence. In an effort for sustainability, the room offers perishable food items, acquired from grocery stores and other businesses. The food needs to be distributed and used to avoid going to waste. Additionally, the products received that can’t be used are shared with agriculture partners in the community for livestock feed or compost.

The Sharing Room opens into the 5,000-square-foot main retail space that is lined with coolers and filled with natural light from large windows. The registration desk is positioned at the entrance where volunteers can check in clients and answer questions. Two small rooms to the left offer space for private consultation and meetings with visiting services such as Work Force Development; the Women, Infants, and Children’s (WIC) program; and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

“Our model is more like a grocery store than any other pantry in Missouri,” Young Lopez explains. “We will display available products on pallets, so they are easily visible, and implement the choice model where clients get a cart and choose the foods they want as opposed to a prepacked box.”

She adds that The Food Bank is one of a handful in the nation that charges nothing for the food provided to clients, partner agencies, and schools.

Connecting to the retail area is an 8,000-square-foot freezer and cooler that provides cold storage for The Food Bank Market as well as the entire Food Bank service region.

“It is a tragedy to have access to those highly-demanded perishable items, but not have anywhere to store them,” Young Lopez says. “Recently, we had to turn down a truck full of frozen meats because we did not have room.”

Just off the freezer/cooler is the gleaning room, a large bright room where team members sort and check fresh produce for quality. The adjoining warehouse is the largest section of the facility at more than 11,000 square feet. The room includes a distribution center for the Buddy Pack and School Pantry Programs that provide food to 7,500 children at nearly 200 schools each week during the school year. 

Centrally located in the facility is the volunteer support area featuring a full kitchen and a dedicated breakroom for lunch, virtual or in-person training, and storing belongings.

“We are so reliant on volunteers — they are very deserving of a space like this, and we are excited to be able to provide it,” she adds.

The adjacent 2,700-square-foot community room is available by reservation for public meetings or training. 

Samples and recipe cards

Young Lopez says the clients served by The Food Bank have a higher incidence of chronic illness and obesity, making nutrition education a key component of programs.

“We added a full-time registered dietician to the team two years ago,” she notes, adding that the dietician uses items that are offered in the pantry and for creating recipes that are handed out on recipe cards.

To further that mission, a demo kitchen was included in the renovation that opens directly to the main shopping floor allowing clients to walk up to get samples, talk to the nutritionist, and get recipe cards. Young Lopez says the pantry plans to offer training and even cooking competitions in the kitchen, which has a strategic layout that includes mobile worktables, a commercial dishwasher, and four stoves.

Even the outdoor space will serve a larger purpose. The surrounding 100,000 square feet of parking area will be available for mobile screening services such as a dental bus.

“We are so pleased to be a part of this corridor and we want to be a good community partner,” Young Lopez says. “Our goal is to provide a resource where people can come and have access to service with no cost to them.” 

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