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Easing hunger

Capital Area Food Bank marks 20 years of service

(Published January 17, 2000)

By EMORY JULIAN MILLS

Staff Writer

The Capital Area Food Bank in Northeast Washington has been feeding the hungry in the Washington metropolitan area for almost 20 years.

Lynn Brantley, president and chief executive officer, said the agency has existed for so long because of widespread hunger in the metropolitan area.

"There’s a tremendous need in the community," she said. "The need is there and the food is here to meet that need."

The Interfaith Conference and the United Planning Organization conceived of a food bank in 1979. An 18,000-square-foot warehouse at 25th Place and Bladensburg Road NE was opened Jan. 20, 1980. The food bank later changed its name and moved to its current location -- a 48,000-square-foot warehouse off Taylor Street NE, adjacent to the Metro tracks. In November 1998, the food bank opened a second, 12,000-square-foot warehouse in Lorton, Va.

The agency receives and distributes food donated largely by the area’s two largest grocery chains -- Giant Food Inc. and Safeway Inc. It also receives donations from Second Harvest, a national nonprofit organization, and annual food drives held by local schools, businesses, synagogues and churches.

Many area "soup kitchens" for homeless and other needy persons rely heavily on the food bank as a source of affordable staples to keep their feeding programs operating.

In the beginning, the food bank distributed food to 90 agencies, Brantley said. It now distributes food to more than 700. The food bank has 47 employees and relies on the assistance of 10,000 volunteers.

Brantley noted a recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which found that Americans throw away 96 billion pounds of food annually.

"We’re a very wasteful country," Brantley said. "That’s what drove the idea of a food bank."

Copyright 2000, The Common Denominator