Food bank in need of home

The Ashland Emergency Food Bank is looking for a new home as Coming Attractions Theatres readies to build its corporate headquarters.

Coming Attractions owns the building and property where the food bank is located at 2200 Ashland St. The Planning Commission on Wednesday night approved Coming Attractions' proposal to construct an 18,791-square-foot, three-story office building at the site.

Mark Dennett, president of the food bank's board, said they are unsure what the organization will do once the construction begins. The board has formed a committee to explore long-term location possibilities, he said.

Larry McLennan, Coming Attractions' executive vice president, said the company has not yet set a timeline for the project.

"We need to move forward on full sets of plans so we can put them out to bid," McLennan said. "We're a few months away from construction."

The theater has been in close contact with the food bank about the plans since their inception, McLennan said, and the food bank will be given 60 days notice before it has to move.

"We've assured the food bank that they have plenty of time to look," McLennan said. "We haven't put any pressure on them to hurry up and move."

Dennett, the chair of the food bank's relocation committee, said they are considering looking for places the food bank could rent or using state or federal funds and donations to construct a building or purchase an existing facility.

"Obviously, we're going to still be in business," he said.

The food bank moved into its current location in November 2006. Then-owner Alan DeBoer gave the food bank a less-than-market-value deal on rent, which Coming Attractions has continued, Dennett said.

The theater company bought the property in June, according to Jackson County records.

The food bank has not been given a move-out-by date, Dennett said, but their goal is to find a new location within the next six months.

They're currently exploring options and keeping up with Coming Attractions' plans, he said.

"We're in really good communications with the theater group," Dennett said.

Ideally, the food bank needs a building with about 3,000 square feet of warehouse-type space that is in close proximity to public transportation, he said.

"Many of our clients, they don't jump in their Lexus and come down and pick up their food," Dennett said.

The food bank has been serving Ashland and Talent residents for 36 years and the majority of clients are the "working poor," mostly families and many with single parents, Dennett said.

"Most of them are employed. They just need a little extra help," Dennett said. "We don't really serve a transient or homeless population. We're really working with everyday people."

And, as the economy slows, the food bank is seeing more people in need, Dennett said.

Last month was the busiest in the food bank's history, he said. They served 828 people in October, up 25 percent from October 2007. In September, the food bank served 784 people, up 43 percent from the previous year.

"We're just continuing to see significant double digit growth," he said. "When the economy begins to slow down, a lot of the people at the bottom are impacted first."

So far in November the bank has received 9,413 pounds of donated food, Dennett said.

But as food prices continue to skyrocket, they're concerned about running out of supplies, he said. Even with food donations, they still have to buy more with donated money to meet the increasing need.

"We could always use donations," Dennett said.

Donations can be dropped off from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the food bank, 2200 Ashland St. Monetary donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 3578, Ashland, OR 97520.

Staff writer Kira Rubenthaler can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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