TAMPA, Fla. — Feeding Tampa Bay is opening its new 215,000 square foot community center Thursday, which will house the main operations of not only its food bank, but also various community services to help those struggling with more issues than just affording food.

The new facility was built on Causeway Boulevard, with the ground raised 13 feet, allowing it to be operational during hurricanes and other disasters.

What You Need To Know

  • Feeding Tampa Bay's new facility is more than double the size at 215,000 square feet and is the result of five years of planning 

  • Former location at Adamo Road and 50th Street was 80,000 square feet, but the organization says it had outgrown the building by 2016

  • Feeding Tampa Bay is expanding its cold storage by 10 times, allowing it to have more healthy, perishable items on demand for the community 

  • FEEDING TAMPA BAY: What you need to know about its new facility

The project cost $60 million and gives Tampa one of the top 15 food banks in the country.

Feeding Tampa Bay CEO Thomas Nantz discussed the challenges its old, 800,000 square foot facility posed as the organization has grown over the years.

“When we moved in to that it was originally 50,000 (square feet), we expanded to 80,000,” Nantz said. “When we moved in there, we were providing the community about 10 million, 15 million meals at the top end. Last year we provided 85 million meals.”

Feeding Tampa Bay says it made the facility work, but there were challengers with storage capacity, especially for perishable and more healthy food items like fruit and vegetables.

“Sometimes we’d go pick up produce, and deliver it and not even bring it back because we didn’t have the proper storage," he said. "With, again, anything perishable, keeping it at temperature so it stays fresh, we needed to be able to do that, and we did not have the ability to get those foods.”

The new facility includes 10 times the amount of cold storage, up to 1,000 pallets of space compared to just 100 pallets.

Huge walk-in coolers and freezers are state-of-the art, and will allow Feeding Tampa Bay to dramatically increase the volume of healthy foods it offers.

The new location is equipped with three kitchens which will be capable of making 10,000 meals in 8 hours. The old facilities kitchen could only provide 500 meals per day.

The loading dock was built with expansion in mind, allowing for up to 22 separate docks.

And Feeding Tampa Bay has also reworked its transportation network to allow for quicker and larger deliveries to its satellite locations.

Nantz said planning for the project began five years ago, and included trips across the country to view other food banks, as well as expert input on what the needs of Tampa Bay will be in the next 25 years.

“All of this design is a result of bringing in outside experts to help us understand how much food we could gather, how quickly it would turn, so all of this we like to say is a big math problem,” Nantz said.

While one side of the facility has been built to meet Tampa’s food needs, the other side will address underlying problems that bring people to need food in the first place.

A neighborhood room and work space will help connect those in need with various social services like housing, tax help, financial services and local assistance programs.

The new facility also includes a new medical section with two exam rooms, and training and education rooms.

At the same time Feeding Tampa Bay is opening its new facility, it is also rebranding itself, not just as a place to come get food, but a place to come get a new future.