Longtime food bank in Thousand Oaks building larger facility
After operating out of a small house for 50 years, Manna Conejo Valley Food Bank is building a new, much larger facility at a former church in Thousand Oaks.
The $2.2 million renovation of the former Shepherd’s House/Foursquare church at 95 N. Oakview Drive began last month and is expected to be completed early next year.
Manna bought the church in 2016 for $840,000, said Darin Arrasmith, the nonprofit’s board president.
Arrasmith said it was long overdue for Manna to move.
“We’re busting at the seams at our current location and have been for a long time,” he said. “But building a food bank is no easy task. It’s a very specific type of real estate.”
Manna’s current location for the past five decades, a small house it owns at 3020 Crescent Way in Thousand Oaks, is 945 square feet, he said.
The renovated church about a half-mile away will be 7,700 square feet, he said.
“It’s going to have increased capacity for food storage and increased capacity for refrigeration, which means we can keep perishable food longer,” he said. “It will also have increased capacity for the number of people that we can accommodate on a given shopping day.”
Arrasmith said the new facility “will replicate more of a grocery store, rather than a residential dwelling. We will be able to offer a wider range of food to people. That helps us focus on getting someone a well-rounded diet.”
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Thousand Oaks City Councilman Bob Engler, who preceded Arrasmith as Manna board president, said the renovated church “will bring Manna into the next century, basically.
“It’s really going to be an asset for the community and the clients they serve,” he said. “So, I’m really happy that the current board and president have been able to bring it to fruition.”
Arrasmith said the food bank served 7,000 to 8,000 people annually before COVID-19, a number he believes went up during the pandemic. Going back further in time, Manna served up to 10,000 people a year, he said.
“We believe that when we return to normalcy after the pandemic, we’re going to be able to serve many more people on an average basis,” he said.
“We’re certainly not serving all of the people who are in food crisis,” he added. “They either don’t know about us, or it’s very difficult to get the number of people through our existing tiny location.”
Arrasmith said another reason for the move is that Manna’s house isn’t zoned for a business such as a food bank. Even so, the city and police have allowed it to stay open given the work Manna does.
“The city never wanted to shut us down, but they also realized that we’re a zoning violation,” he said.
With the organization serving thousands of people a year, authorities realized it was something that needed to continue. “They just want to help us get into a location that’s in compliance,” he said.
The city has fully permitted the church renovation, he added. Once the project is completed, Manna will sell its house.
The renovation by Ventura-based Staples Construction is funded through donations and grants.
“We’re looking for more donations to help us bridge the gap,” Arrasmith said.
Those wishing to give can do so through Manna’s website, mannaconejo.org.
Mike Harris covers the East County cities of Moorpark, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, as well as transportation countywide. You can contact him at email@example.com or 805-437-0323.
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