Last updated: February 19. 2013 11:50PM - 460 Views

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At least one unnamed contributor will help fund the Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank's new warehouse, the food bank's director said Thursday, a day after the food bank announced it would build the warehouse on a 6-acre land parcel donated by developer Robert Mericle.


We do have some financing we can't release information about at this point, Weinberg Food Bank Director Rich Kutz said. Because of the sources, we're keeping all that confidential, as they requested.


On Wednesday, the food bank announced Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services had donated a 6.35-acre lot in the CenterPoint Commerce and Trade East industrial park in Jenkins Township. The donation includes site preparation work, and is valued at $1 million.


Kutz said the food bank was referred to Mericle by the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce.


The chamber was prepared to donate land near the Hanover Industrial Park in Hanover Township for the project, Kutz said, but the land would have needed extensive redevelopment before the warehouse could be built there.


Kutz said the donation makes possible a project the food bank and parent organization, The Commission on Economic Opportunity, have been planning for two years. The warehouse will greatly expand the organization's storage capacity, especially for refrigerated and frozen foods, allowing it to better meet the needs of member agencies.


To provide for more nourishing items, such as fresh produce and meats, we needed to add freezer and refrigeration space, Kutz said.


As the regional food bank for Luzerne, Lackawanna, Susquehanna and Wyoming counties, the Weinberg Food Bank distributes food to 140 agencies at 177 different sites. Demand for food has grown greatly since the food bank's inception in 1996, when it served 18 member agencies.


This (expansion) will allow us to put food out to those agencies, Kutz said.


The new warehouse will provide more than 50,000 square feet of storage space, close to four times the 13,500 square feet the food bank has available at its current home on Amber Lane in Wilkes-Barre.


Kutz said CEO's main office will remain in the Amber Lane building, with space currently devoted to the food bank being repurposed after the move.


The move will free up additional space to prepare and store meals for the food bank's children's meal program, which serves lunch to approximately 2,000 children during the summer at roughly 90 sites, and an additional 1,000 snacks and meals to children in after-school programs at approximately 30 sites throughout the school year.


It will also create room for volunteer activities organized by CEO.


Kutz said the new warehouse is still in the early planning and design stages, but CEO hopes to move forward on the project quickly. The organization anticipates putting the project up for bid and starting construction in the spring or early summer of 2013.

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