By STEPHANIE PATRICK
Construction is underway on North Texas Food Bank’s first food distribution center in Collin County, which symbolizes a major shift for the hunger-relief organization that’s in a large-scale campaign to serve 92 million meals per year by 2025.
The 230,000-square-foot Perot Family Campus is scheduled to open in late 2018 on Mapleshade Lane near George Bush Turnpike in Plano. It will join NTFB’s longtime distribution center on Cockrell Hill Road in southwest Dallas and the nonprofit’s administrative office in Dallas Farmers Market in downtown.
“We’ve been serving Plano for a very long time, and we know there is a need in the area which many people are unaware of,” said Anna Kurian, director of communications. “Because we serve all the land to the Oklahoma border, it made sense to have a location that was up north to serve that area.”
It’s part of the $55 million Stop Hunger Build Hope campaign launched in September 2015. The children of billionaire couple Ross and Margaret Perot – Ross Jr. and Sarah Perot, Nancy Perot and Rod Jones, Suzanne and Patrick McGee, Carolyn and Karl Rathjen and Katherine and Eric Reeves – kicked off the campaign with a lead gift of $10 million; their parents, who are longtime supporters of the food bank, donated $2 million.
The about $25 million distribution center will help NTFB reach more of its 13-county service area and address the campaign’s three-pronged strategy, Kurian said. The strategy includes more community engagement by operating near prospective stakeholders and partnering with agencies, volunteers and donors in those areas; network expansion by improving partner agencies’ infrastructures and deploying new programs to help bring food assistance to areas where the need is greatest; and increasing client visibility by understanding the impact NTFB’s network has on clients to ensure stewardship and promote service integration.
“It was a natural choice,” she said. “We have wonderful support from the leadership of the city of Plano; the mayor and the city council have been tremendous supporters and champions of the food bank and our work, and they are very excited that we will have a facility in their area as well.”
It will include 84,000 square feet of dry warehouse space, 70,000 square feet of refrigerated warehouse space, 50,000 square feet of office space, 18 dry docks and a 28,000-square-foot volunteer center with the capacity to accommodate as many as 250 volunteers per day.
When it’s complete, the campus will replace NTFB’s warehouse on Dan Morton Drive in Dallas, where most agencies pick up food. The main campus on Cockrell Hill Road will remain, but use of that center will evolve, Kurian said.
Other places considered were existing facilities in Garland, Farmers Branch and Carrollton.
“We always aspired to have it in a place that would increase our visibility among potential donors and corporations.” Kurian said.
A ceremonial groundbreaking was held in February.
Some of the city’s appeal is the large number of companies that recently moved to Plano or plan to open operations in the affluent suburb soon, including the North American headquarters of Toyota earlier this year. That provides ample opportunities to add volunteers; one NTFB’s goals is to attract 65,000 volunteers per year, about 30,000 more than the current active-volunteer database.
There’s also a long history of groups from Plano helping NTFB, including many volunteers traveling to the Dallas distribution center, said Steve Stoler, the city’s director of media relations. That includes Plano Volunteer Day each fall, where the mayor or a city councilmember greets each crew.
Stoler expects participation to increase when the new distribution center opens because the Plano location will be more convenient for local groups. Plano has VIP – Volunteers in Plano – a program that attracted 7,630 people who volunteered 92,205 hours last year, so volunteerism is important to those who reside and work in the city.
The move also positions the food bank to establish food hubs out of some of their partner agencies. NTFB will distribute food from the Plano center to the hubs, which will act as mini food banks for smaller agencies, Kurian said. The first hub is Sharing Life in Mesquite.
“We are looking identify other agencies that would like to take on that role …,” she said. “We have more than 200 agencies that work with us, and they have different capabilities.”
NTFB served more than 70 million meals in fiscal 2017, which was July 1, 2016, through June 30 of this calendar year. If the population continues to grow as fast as expected, the food bank will serve 92 million meals each year several years before 2025, Kurian said.
Kurian also is confident NTFB will reach its $55 million goal by the end of the year or early next year. NTFB is seeking grants from foundations and corporations, and it received $5 million from The Moody Foundation and $2.5 million from Plano-based Alliance Data, a global provider of data-driven marketing and loyalty solutions.
“As the population continues to grow – even though there is prosperity – the need will always be there …,” she said. “We never want to rest on our laurels, and we know that there will always be hungry people. We will reset our goal based on what that need is.”
For more about the capital campaign, visit ntfb.org/stophunger.