West Alabama Food Bank moving from Northport to Tuscaloosa

The West Alabama Food Bank needs more space, and it’s getting that with an upcoming move from its warehouse in Northport to a larger one in Tuscaloosa.

WAFB Executive Director Jean Rykaczewski said the organization underwent some growing pains during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are running out of space,” she said. “In the last five years, we have tripled in the capacity that we have here. We do not have available offices to bring in extra programs, we don’t have enough storage for the food we have coming in and we are constantly having to turn around free truckloads of food because we don’t have the cooler space or freezer space.”

Changes were necessary. That’s why as soon as an opportunity to buy the Buffalo Rock warehouse in Tuscaloosa struck, the food bank took it.

“It will double our warehouse space, plus it comes with 10 acres,” Rykaczewski said. “We are hoping to add a community garden, plant some fruit and nut trees that will be available to the community. We will be able to bring in a lot of programs we don’t currently have because we didn’t have the space or resources at this location.”

Tuscaloosa County Probate Judge Rob Robertson said the WAFB serves as the distribution center for nine counties in West Alabama and into the Black Belt.

The West Alabama Food Bank attended the Tuscaloosa County Commission meeting recently to ask for financial support during this move.

“They asked for some funding and that’s being considered by the (Tuscaloosa County) Commission,” Robertson said. “It will be something that we think we will review to see what we can do to help out.”

The WAFB asked for $250,000 from the Tuscaloosa County Commission, Rykaczewski said, but they’re also asking for funding from the city of Tuscaloosa and the other counties the organization represents.

“We are just not asking Tuscaloosa,” she said. “We are asking everyone to kind of help us foot the cost of this bill. We are looking forward to this and we think it’s going to be a great move. We hate to leave Northport. Northport is wonderful for us, but we don’t want to tie up three highways in case something happens.”

Robertson said the food bank provides a tremendous service throughout West Alabama.

Rykaczewski said the move is expected to happen in January, but the Northport location will be home through at least the Christmas season.

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