It’s a partnership between a charitable nonprofit and a group of corporations that seek to give something back — and they want this payback to help folks in the Central Valley and, in particular, Tulare County.
Clif Bar & Company, based in Berkeley — under the auspices of its “In Good Company” community outreach program, which is actually supported by a number of companies who make it a priority to give back — just happens to be coming to town next week to jumpstart FoodLink’s community garden at their new Exeter headquarters.
The relocation of FoodLink’s headquarters from Visalia makes it possible for one of Tulare County’s most vital nonprofits to evolve from a food bank and distributor to also becoming a nutrition and educational resource facility.
The vision for FoodLink to become a part of changing the way Tulare County eats is the dream of its executive director, Sarah Ramirez.
Sarah came on board in September 2014, one month after FoodLink had completed the purchase of the old Pinkham persimmon packinghouse in Exeter that has stood vacant for the past five years, waiting for just the right redevelopment proposal. FoodLink’s relocation became reality thanks to a U.S. Rural Development loan that keeps the monthly mortgage payment one-third less than FoodLink’s current rent in Visalia.
“We will own the property outright with plenty of room to grow,” Sarah said.
While Lindsay has their McDermont Field House in a converted citrus packing facility, Exeter will have its 20,000 square-foot warehouse with “Teaching Kitchen,” by Lowe’s of Visalia, state-of-the-art food-storage facility, a 5,000 square-foot cold box, and offices for its staff all under one roof.
Clif Bar’s contribution, an 18,000 square-foot community garden adjacent to the warehouse, will be part how-to but more importantly a source of fresh produce for those who couldn’t otherwise afford it and for area schools.
“The small schools can’t store fresh produce so as a result they end up eating almost entirely surplus and packaged foods, a menu that’s not very nutritional,” Sarah said. “In Exeter, we have room to become a sustainable resource center for the entire Tulare County community.”
FoodLink’s new headquarters are located between First and Second streets, north of Firebaugh Avenue and southeast of downtown. Sarah said they hope to be all moved in and fully operational by June 1.