To keep up with the demand for food assistance, St. Petersburg Free Clinic has acquired a new location for its growing food bank, which provides food to more than 60,000 people in south and mid-Pinellas County each month.
With a significant gift from St. Petersburg businesswoman Bonnie Hechtkopf, the Free Clinic has purchased a 14,000-square-foot warehouse at 3115 44th Ave. N in Lealman. The new warehouse will significantly expand the Food Bank’s capacity – particularly its supply of healthy, fresh produce.
The Free Clinic has seen the need for food continue to grow despite the economic recovery. The volume of food provided has more than doubled in recent years, from 1.6 million pounds in 2010 to an expected 3.5 million pounds this year.
“For people who are on the edge financially, food is an expense that is sacrificed to pay rent or utilities,” said Beth Houghton, the St. Petersburg Free Clinic’s executive director. “The need has outgrown our main building and this warehouse will allow us to serve more people in our community.”
A gift from Bonnie Hechtkopf, Chair at St. Petersburg-based Kobie Marketing, made the $820,000 purchase and planned renovations of the building possible. The building will be named the Jared S. Hechtkopf Community Food Bank in memory of her late husband.
“Over the past 16 years, I’ve searched for a project that is worthy of carrying my husband’s legacy forward,” said Hechtkopf. “He was a brilliant man who cared deeply for others and our community, and I think he would be pleased to be part of this project, which will have a lasting positive impact.”
Once open, the warehouse will be the hub for food collection from grocers and food drives, and for distribution to the Free Clinic’s 65 partner organizations throughout south and mid-Pinellas County. Individuals who are seeking food assistance from the Free Clinic will continue to visit the food pantry at the Free Clinic’s main location at 863 3rd Ave. N in downtown St. Petersburg.
The Free Clinic plans to renovate the building and move the warehouse operations of its Food Bank by early 2017.