Johnson County’s largest food pantry wants to have more room for fresh vegetables and cupboard staples like macaroni and cheese and to allow families to shop for what they need.
In order to do that, the Interchurch Food Pantry is planning to move. The move will be the organization’s ninth in 32 years as it has continued to grow, providing food to 4,000 more families in the last year.
In April, the pantry is planning to move about a mile away from its current location on Graham Road in Franklin to a remodeled building on Commerce Drive. The new building has about 3,000 square feet more space than the current location, and construction has started to remodel the facility for the pantry.
The organization will begin serving families from its new location April 27, pantry co-manager Carol Phipps said. The program will not be shut during the move from one building to another, she said.
In its new building, which has been vacant since a gymnastics studio moved out, the pantry will have enough space for a new refrigerator and freezer that are large enough to drive a pallet truck into, Phipps said.
The organization also will double its warehouse space, which will allow families in need to shop inside the new structure like a traditional grocery store, Phipps said. The food pantry gives food, toilet paper and hygiene products to low-income Johnson County residents up to twice per week.
Families will have the freedom to pick out the items they need at home through the new format, instead of having bags already prepared for them like they do now.
After six years at its current location, the organization has outgrown its 5,400-square-foot space, Phipps said. The food pantry helped 37 percent more people last year alone, totaling more than 48,000 people.
The larger space will allow the organization to participate in other food-related services, like storing backpacks and donations for students. The food pantry will eventually be the drop-off point between Gleaners Food Bank and Franklin schools in its program that feeds children over the weekend.
The new location was leased to the food pantry in January. Local donors are paying the rent while the food pantry is still on Graham Road so the organization does not have to cover two rent payments each month, Phipps said. The pantry is planning a donation campaign to purchase the Commerce Drive building so the organization does not have to spend money on rent payments in the future, she said.
The pantry also received donations to help cover the costs of its move. The majority of the construction costs, which will be about $125,000, are either being donated or done at a reduced cost, Phipps said.
Journey Church in Franklin donated $9,000 to the food pantry Sunday, which will go toward construction costs and items to be purchased for their new building. Last year, Journey Church donated $10,000 to the food pantry as well, which was used to purchase a van.