Auburn Food Bank gets ready to grow in 2023

Amid the holiday struggle to feed 1,600 people every week in a tough economy, Debbie Christian and every one of her hard-working volunteers at the Auburn Food Bank have a spring in their step.

That’s because the long-in-planning transformation of the former Sports Page Tavern (2802 Auburn Way North) into the new Auburn Food Bank, Daytime Resource Center and Night Shelter is rolling at last.

“We finally got the permit, and we are able to start with a superintendent on the job this week,” said Christian, the food bank’s director, in mid-December.

The food bank has been at 920 8th Place NE in the Burndale Housing Complex in north Auburn for many years, but is relocating because it’s in a small space, Christian said, and there is no room to grow.

”We have been maxed out of capacity for many, many years. This move will give us about five times as much space,” Christian said. “We get donations of food. This move gives us the capacity to receive larger donations of food. It gives us more room to serve more people.”

Plans on file with the City of Auburn’s Department of Community Development show the total improved area in that part of the complex will constitute 14,631 square feet, divided between 6,899 square feet for the food bank at the south end (where the tavern was) and the newly combined resource center and night shelter, with 3,741 square feet and 3,991 square feet, respectively, on the other side of the food bank’s north wall, but accessible to it. The night shelter will accommodate 45 cots. The yet-to-be-improved areas make up 49 percent of the total building.

The remaining tenants in the complex are Taqueria el Taco Maestro and Pho Dinh Vietnamese Noodles.

Christian said the current projected cost of work from the contractor is $1.6 million, and the food bank will need $1 million to help make this happen.

“We will probably get a construction loan to help cover us until we can get grant money to help pay for the build-out. We do have some generous vendors who are keeping their costs as low as possible, and we will be getting some of the smaller items donated. Once COVID hit, we were at a stand-still for progress as we were unable to look for grants until we knew where we were at, construction wise,” Christian said.

Christian hopes to have all the work done by early summer of 2023.

“I’m shooting for a June time frame, but I don’t really know. It depends upon supply and demand and the product the vendor has to get,” Christian said.