Second Harvest Heartland Renovates Brooklyn Park Warehouse
Minnesota’s largest food bank, Second Harvest Heartland, is celebrating the start of renovations at its new Brooklyn Park facility. They moved from Golden Valley last year. They hope to complete renovations this spring.
The renovations will include adding a visitor and volunteer center as well as adding more food shelf features such as coolers and a temperature-controlled packing room.
“We are expanding our facility not only in space but also in those nuts and bolts of cooling and refrigeration,” says Second Harvest CEO Allison O’Toole. “Also, we will have a newer fleet of trucks. We will have more trucks that we can use more efficiently to get the food in to the hands that need it.”
Currently the food bank serves around 89 million meals a year. The new facility will help it serve 110 million meals by the year 2025.
Many of those meals will be able to include leafy greens.
A Garden in a Shipping Container
One way they are adding those leafy greens is by building what’s called hydroponic garden. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil by using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. To the untrained eye, it looks like several columns of lettuce growing inside a shipping container.
“It’s successful in that it’s growing,” says Bob Branham, Second Harvest Director of Produce Strategy. “We close the door on the weekends. And when we come back the plants are simply a little bit bigger when we come in on Monday.”
There are 256 vertical towers inside the small facility that’s called a “freight farm.” It uses about 5 gallons of water a day. The food bank hopes it will eventually produce about 8,000 pounds of fresh leafy greens.
“The challenge for us in hunger relief is we don’t have access to leafy greens like this that are fresh,” added Branham.
Branham says they get donations of cut bag lettuce, but they’d also like to distribute truly fresh lettuce.
Second Harvest says they are the first food bank in the U.S. to try out this new method. Right now, the freight farm is providing around 200 salads a week to two food programs in the Twin Cities area.
Second Harvest says that’s only the beginning. They’d like to expand to produce a quarter million pounds of leafy greens a year.
“We aren’t sure when that will happen but is definitely our vision,” said Branham.