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An artist's rendering shows the design for the St. Rest + Food to Share Hub in Southwest Fresno.

published on July 28, 2021 - 2:21 PM
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Two Fresno community organizations announced a collaboration Wednesday that would result in a new building and expanded access to food in an oft-neglected part of town.

Local, state and federal officials were on hand for the announced partnership between St. Rest Baptist Church and Fresno Metro Ministries’ Food to Share program for their joint operation, St. Rest + Food to Share Hub.

Pastor D.J. Criner of St. Rest Baptist Church said the project like the one between the two organizations has not happened in Southwest Fresno for well over 20 years.

The first result of the partnership will be the construction of a two-story building and the rehabilitation of an existing warehouse to store food, according to Keith Bergthold, executive director of Fresno Metro Ministries.

The first floor of the 3,800 square-foot building will house offices as well as a classroom and meeting center. The second floor will have a certified commercial kitchen where classes can be held for nutrition education as well as teaching space for entrepreneurs. A rooftop garden will also jut out overlooking Elm Avenue. Paul Halajian Architects designed the building.

The project will also include the rehabilitation of an existing warehouse congregants from St. Rest have been using to store food for their food ministry.

The church purchased the former warehouse for Farmer John Meat Co. for $1 in 2014, according to Bergthold.

Bergthold said the warehouse should be fully completed in the first quarter of 2022 and the new building should be completed first quarter 2023.

Once finished, members of the two ministries will be able to bring in trucks where the pallets of food they receive can be broken down and distributed to not only those in the community but the 49 distributed points the Food to Share program has established.

While the warehouse’s rehabilitation has been fully funded, the partnership is still $1.3 million away from the necessary $3.2 million to construct the new building. Donations came from eight “angel investors” to get to the $1.9 million mark. The project is considered part of the Transformative Climate Communities fund and $66.5 million came from the state to fund green initiatives.

 

Pastor D.J. Criner of St. Rest Baptist Church speaks at a groundbreaking event Wednesday. Photo by Edward Smith

 

This includes $665,000 earmarked by California Senator Dianne Feinstein in the upcoming infrastructure bill. Even if it doesn’t pass, Bergthold said “they’d just have to raise the money.”

During his speech, Fresno City Councilman Miguel Arias told attendees at the announcement to present a request to City Council to fund the remainder using $25 million set aside in the budget from Federal Rescue Funds.

Nearly 17,000 people live within one mile of the project, according to the fact sheet presented by Fresno Metro Ministries. The median income for southwest Fresno is $26,621, 33% of the median California income. Poverty rates in the 93706 zip code are more than twice that of Fresno County.

St. Rest Baptist Church began distributing food in 2009, according to Bernice Wiley, director of food ministries at the church. They began serving bread and shortly after, they were storing dry food in shipping containers.

The acquisition of the warehouse allowed them to bring in freezers and refrigerators to store meat and produce.

Wiley said on many days, the line to receive food extends from the warehouse to the church, about 300 yards away.

Officials at the City of Fresno asked members of the church to increase food services from five days a week to seven, said Criner. Over the past four years, the food ministry at St. Rest has distributed over 1.4 million pounds of food. Before the partnership with Fresno Metro Ministries, they relied on food from food banks as well as donations from Save Mart Supermarkets.

Fresno Metro Ministries’ Food to Share program collects food that would otherwise be wasted and redistributes it. In over four years, they have distributed 5.7 million pounds of food.


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