Meet the Chairs for the Capital Campaign Committee

February 24, 2021

The scale of the Food Bank’s warehouse expansion is enormous, and with a $40 million price tag, it can’t happen without the broad support of donors like Mike and Alison Mauzé, who chair the Capital Campaign Committee. 

Mike and Alison Mauzé are like many Food Bank donorsThey devote an enormous amount of their time, talent, and treasure to our mission to end hunger. As chairs for the Capital Campaign Committee, they have been leaders in our donor community over the last three years. 

Mike manages a private equity fund and invests in entrepreneurial food brands, while Alison chairs the board for Davidson College and works full-time in philanthropy. They moved to the Bay Area in 2000 and have witnessed the need for food grow. 

 “We are seeing a tremendous increase in food insecurity,” said Mike. “With the rising cost of living, rent takes up more of the paycheck than ever before, while government programs have been cut and are more difficult to tap.”

Alison concurred: This is why the couple first got involved with the Food Bank. “Food is a universal need, and food insecurity affects people from different backgrounds,” she said. “But what strikes me the most is how it affects kids. Children aren’t as prepared for school when they are wrestling with hunger.” 

Nearing the goal

During the time the Mauzés have been volunteering with the Food Bank, they have gotten to know other donors from all different walks of life and industries, but they say there is a tie that binds them together around the Food Bank’s mission to end hunger.  

That tie is so strong that people have gladly chipped in for the warehouse expansion, knowing it means feeding more people struggling to put food on the table. In fact, donors have been so enthusiastic that the Capital Campaign Committee has already raised over 90% of the needed $40 million.  

Alison attributes this to donors recognizing the growing needs. “There is economic hardship in the community, and so many people have lost their jobs in the pandemic, or they are working hard but still can’t make ends meet,” she said. “Struggling families have even more expenses with kids out of schoolHaving food means one less thing to worry about and provides that basic fuel to take on life’s other challenges.” 

While there is still more to raise, the Mauzés are confident that the expansion will continue to win support from the broad donor community. “We are in the middle of the pandemic and a recession,” said Mike. “I’m not a prognosticator of the economy. But I know for certain that the Food Bank’s donors will step up for anything our community needs. People are having a hard time making ends meet, and we need to lend a hand. Now more than ever is the time to make a difference.” 

In the Head of the Architects of Our New Warehouse

January 24, 2021

Scott Shell is a principal at EHDD, the architect on the design/build team working with Truebeck Construction on the warehouse expansion project. We spoke to him about his vision for the new building and how it aligns with the Food Bank’s Mission.

Q: How did you get involved with the Food Bank expansion project?

A: There was a design competition, and the Food Bank invited three design/build teams to submit ideas. We worked over a month – toured the facilities, researched the mission and vision, and then presented our ideas. I believe we were selected because our design both showcases the mission and integrates the building into the community.

Q: How does the design showcase the mission and increase awareness of the Food Bank?

A: We wanted to make the building iconic and make a visual representation of the organization’s mission. The Food Bank has this stunning site right off the 280 Freeway that hundreds of thousands of people drive by every day. Those are all potential donors and volunteers who are currently not seeing the building. So, we enlarged and illuminated the logo of the heart and apple. The logo is about feeding people and also about loving and respecting them. And that’s why the Food Bank’s mission is so fantastic: It’s not just about the food, it’s about treating people like human beings. With more visual awareness of the building, we hope more people will be aware of the Food Bank’s mission.

Q: How is the building integrated into the community?

A: Some people think the area is an industrial neighborhood. But Dogpatch is a vibrant area, and we think it’s going to transform to have an active pedestrian life. The Food Bank is a volunteer-driven organization, and so our design is meant to welcome anyone who passes. Right now, there’s a fence, and you have to walk up the stairs to get to the reception. We wanted to bring the welcome center right down to the street. There will be lots of graphics and photographs connecting to the community right behind the glass. We want it to say, “Come on in and be a part of our mission: You are welcome here.”

Q: Now that you’ve been working closely with the Food Bank, what’s noteworthy to you?

A: First of all, the quality of the food is impressive. It’s not an outdated notion of canned food. It’s healthy, fresh food that’s important for physical and mental health. Fresh fruits and vegetables are what we all want for our families. The second thing is how the warehouse is a logistical powerhouse. It’s buzzing with activity with huge quantities of food coming in and out. When you watch the warehouse crew unload trucks, it’s thrilling to see them weave forklifts in and out doing an amazing dance. It’s like a professional sporting event.

Q: The design is all about the warehouse. Tell us about the expansion.

A: The warehouse isn’t just an empty space. It’s highly technical. The design is 30,000 additional square feet with two new loading docks, expanded refrigerators and freezers, a welcome center on the ground floor, and expanded offices on the 2nd floor. But it’s not just about increasing the square footage – it’s about optimizing storage capacity to feed as many families as possible. To that end, the Food Bank has also brought in a racking specialist and a refrigeration specialist to maximize the space inside. Our firm is responsible for the overall plan – from the building to the additional loading docks to space for staging, storing, sorting, and then redistributing out to the pantries where participants pick up their food.

Q: Are there any special features of the expanded building?

A: It’s an all-electric building with solar panels on it. It’s going to have a super low carbon footprint. If you google the most polluted cities in this country, many are in California, and that pollution is typically concentrated in low-income communities. The same people who suffer from food insecurity also suffer the most because of pollution. We are proud that the new building will contribute to cleaner air and contribute to people’s good health – just like healthy food.

Q: How will the building contribute to the Food Bank’s mission?

A: There’s too much inequality in the world today, and people can’t dig out of a hole without a helping hand. The Food Bank is that helping hand when it comes to food. The expanded building will make the Food Bank more visible and show off what the organization does in a physical form. We hope that awareness will lead to more donations and volunteers, which ultimately will lead to more families served. And that’s what this is all about.

Take a photo tour of our warehouse in Marin and our future one in San Francisco.

Why is the Food Bank Expanding?

December 14, 2020

Michael Wirkkala is the Chief Operating Officer at the Food Bank. He has been directing everything from our needs assessment to planning to being an ambassador in the community for the project. We sat down with him to learn more about what’s going on behind-the-scenes with the project.

Q: Why is the Food Bank expanding?

A: The short answer is that hunger is growing, and we want to serve more people. The longer answer is that we’ve occupied our current warehouse since 1997; we were bursting at the seams before COVID, and since the pandemic, it has become even more critical to expand our facilities. The building was originally intended to support the distribution of 30 million pounds of food per year, and pre-COVID, we were handling 48 million pounds. Since the pandemic began, that number has jumped up to 56 million. The expansion will enlarge the site by approximately 32,000 square feet and allow us to grow our annual food distribution to 75 million pounds, serving up to 200,000 people per week.

Q: How has the pandemic impacted the expansion?

A: We were already almost five years into planning and designing the expansion when COVID hit. Since then, we’ve doubled the number of families we serve at our pantries, and we dramatically grew our Pantry At Home program from 250 participants to almost 12,000 seniors and people with disabilities. The lack of space has been costly and requires additional coordination.

Given that the warehouse was already stretched beyond capacity, we erected a makeshift tent in the parking lot, then rented additional warehouse space, then another, then another, and then another. Managing inventory for eight separate warehouses has been incredibly complex. In addition to the cost related to space, transportation, and coordination, we’ve been less efficient than we could be if we were all in one warehouse.

Q: How much will the expansion cost, and where will the money come from?

A: The total price tag is $40 million. The support from donors has been incredible, and we’ve already raised 90% of the $40 million. People have been especially generous during the pandemic as COVID has left thousands of people out of work. The need to expand is even more urgent, as the economic effects of the pandemic are not going away anytime soon.

Q: Has the community been involved in the planning process?

A: After we had done some initial planning and drafted our initial designs, we solicited feedback from the community. Because of their input, we’ve improved our designs to provide additional pedestrian safety and much easier and efficient truck access to the site which will result in less traffic congestion. We now have unanimous support from key neighborhood groups such as the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association, the Potrero Boosters, and the Green Benefit District.

Q: Will the construction alter your food distribution services?

A: Our goal is to not disrupt the flow of food to the community. When we expanded our Marin warehouse, there was no disruption. This will be a complex renovation given our current footprint, and we will temporarily have to back trucks into Pennsylvania Avenue. We’ll have flag people on the streets for safety, and trucks will be staged off-site until we are ready. It will require a lot of strategic planning to ensure we can get food to the community without adding traffic congestion to our neighborhood.

Q: When will the construction be complete?

A: As you might imagine, the pandemic has slowed the process. Permitting from the City has been significantly delayed as those offices were closed for months. We hope to break ground in the spring of 2021 and complete construction in 2022. It’s going to be very exciting to open our new doors. The building will be beautiful, but more importantly, it will allow us to meet the needs of the community, making a difference in people’s lives.

Take a photo tour of our warehouse in Marin, and our future one in San Francisco.