​Forever Home for Grundy County Food Bank

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

For years the Grundy County Food Bank has teetered on the brink of homelessness. Now, thanks to Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady, the food bank will have its first real home, a building constructed and designed with the food bank’s needs in mind. Said Brady, who explored a multitude of options and grant opportunities, “You may get 1,000 ‘no’s,’ but it’s that one ‘yes’ you work for.”

The Grundy County Food Bank is the grocery life-support mechanism for nearly 250 families. The food bank vacated operations at the old Grundy County High School vocational building due to structural issues, Brady said. Since then, the owner of a vacant Tracy City grocery store has allowed the nonprofit to use the building rent free. But the old grocery store has a leaking roof and rotting floors. “The building needs repairs,” said Grundy County Food Bank Director Tim Glover. In addition, Glover said a survey revealed need for a more central location rather than the present site at the county’s edge.

“We looked at prefab buildings and older buildings,” Brady said, but nothing suited. Brady ruled out a school system building due to high costs associated with sharing the space and installing a sprinkler system. Drawing a blank on finding affordable space, Brady applied for a Community Livability grant.

The grant didn’t come through, though. Brady talked to the governor and first lady, pleading the food bank’s case. Given the liability issues of the old grocery, Brady decided to apply for an Imminent Threat grant with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Brady got his “yes” at the end of October.

“The engineers are ready to go as soon as the contract is signed,” Brady said. He expects to break ground in late November or early December. The 6,000 square foot building designed by OLG Engineering will have 3,000 square feet dedicated to the food bank, equipped with freezers and coolers. The remaining 3,000 square feet will be for storage and expansion. Glover envisions a kitchen for demonstration and educational purposes, and maybe a soup and salad bay and a chili bay.

The $420,000 grant won’t cover the entire estimated $700,000 construction cost, Brady said. But he stressed the estimate included contingency expenses and material costs had decreased since the building was designed. Brady predicts the project will come in 10-15 percent below the estimate. “We’ll come up with the rest of the money,” Brady said. “We’re extremely close to having the money with no debt on the county.” Brady pointed to industrial development funds that could be used for infrastructure expenses and donations as funding sources.

The county donated the land for the building, a site in Coalmont at the Highway 56 and Highway 108 junction, satisfying the need for a central location. Brady said the simple design, metal and stone, will take six months at the most to complete.

The food bank has changed operations due to the pandemic. “We’ve switched to drive-thru,” Glover said. Formerly clients browsed offerings, selecting items from the various food groups according to their preferences. At the present, clients receive three boxes of groceries which include canned goods, frozen meat, produce, bread, and a small amount of dairy. The USDA has been especially generous with meat this year, according to Glover. Families will receive a Thanksgiving turkey.

What’s missing from the grocery boxes? “We need sugar and flour,” Glover stressed. “It’s rare we have any.” Donations of flour and sugar would be most welcome. Christmas cookies come to mind with the holidays just around the corner. The holiday gift of a forever home is on the way.