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Regional food bank seeks to double capacity with expanded Newington warehouse

Officials attend a ceremonial groundbreaking for Capital Area Food Bank’s warehouse expansion in Newington (courtesy Capital Area Food Bank)

(Updated at 10:25 a.m. on 5/24/2023) Construction has begun on a new warehouse for the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) in the Newington area.

The organization, which supports nonprofits and provides meals to residents throughout the D.C. region, broke ground on the 43,000-square-foot distribution facility at ​​6833 Hill Park Drive, Lorton, on May 15.

Expected to more than double CAFB’s capacity in Northern Virginia, the new warehouse replaces a smaller building on the same site that the food bank says “no longer had the size or efficiencies required to address the area’s rising need.”

“Building an expanded facility in Northern Virginia couldn’t come at a more important time: in the wake of the pandemic and sustained rates of inflation, there are still so many in our community who are struggling to make ends meet and to access enough nutritious food,” CAFB President and CEO Radha Muthiah said. “This building is an investment in the future of thousands of Northern Virginians, both today and in the years to come.”

About 24% of Fairfax County residents reported experiencing food insecurity in 2021, putting it on the lower end of a spectrum that ranged from 21% in Arlington County to 48% in Prince George’s County, according to CAFB’s 2022 Hunger Report.

Expected to be released this September, the next hunger report could tell an even more sobering story after a year of inflation and diminishing public assistance. As of February, food prices were 10% higher than that time last year, CAFB said in its annual report, and the end of emergency SNAP benefits placed new pressure on local food banks.

(Correction: This article previously said the next hunger report is expected this summer. While last year’s report came out in June, CAFB says this year’s will likely be published in September, coinciding with Hunger Action Month.)

Capital Area Food Bank distributed nearly three times as many meals in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic as in the preceding year, Fairfax County leaders said last year. In February 2022, the county’s Board of Supervisors approved a $5 million contribution from its federal Covid relief funds to support to the food bank’s warehouse expansion.

CAFB projects that the project will cost a total of $35 million, which it hopes to cover with both public and private funding. So far, seven localities and Virginia have invested over $9 million, and Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Rep. Gerry Connolly, have requested federal Community Project Funding.

“The new 43,000 square-foot facility will be nearly 3.5 times larger than the existing building, allowing the food bank to store and distribute more produce, provide more space for its partner nonprofits to pick up food, and offer volunteering opportunities at its Virginia warehouse for the first time,” CAFB said in a press release.

In addition to hosting a new volunteer center, the warehouse will be larger and more flexible with updated equipment compared to the previous building, which was built in 1982.

The old warehouse’s cooler and storage space had become inadequate, and maintenance was “cost-prohibitive,” CAFB said.

The new building is expected to be completed by late summer 2024.

CAFB isn’t the only local food assistance nonprofit to seek a capacity boost recently. Food for Others opened an addition to its Merrifield warehouse in February that allows clients to shop for groceries.

CAFB distributes more than 50 million meals across the D.C. region annually, according to its website. The organization’s main distribution facility is in northeast D.C.