Loaves & Fishes Community Services has acquired an Aurora warehouse, which will help the nonprofit redesign its food and service delivery strategy.
The new 30,000 square foot facility at 580 Exchange Court will serve as the organization’s central hub, where food products will be received, stored, processed and distributed to the so-called “spokes,” said CEO Mike Havala. These include home deliveries, mobile markets, the Bolingbrook satellite pantry, or the existing headquarters in Naperville, where the Loaves & Fishes offices, CARES programs and the grocery store will remain.
The nonprofit adopted the “hub-and-spoke model” as part of its latest strategic plan to provide more convenience and flexibility based on customer selection, demand and other circumstances, Havala said.
The restructuring initiative, entitled “Building for Lasting Impact”, is based on an analysis of Loaves & Fishes operations and the geographic coverage area.
The study was conducted about two years ago with the help of the Booth Alumni Nonprofit Consultants at the University of Chicago.
“Acquiring the building … is really a germ change that allows us to do things differently, which results in many good things for our customers,” said Havala. “It enables us to have a model that is more efficient and that we can scale.”
Loaves & Fishes has launched a capital campaign to raise funds for the $ 3.1 million project that covers the purchase price of the property and the cost of building the warehouse, Havala said.
Drive-in freezer and refrigeration units are expected to be installed to increase the organization’s inventory of fresh produce, dairy and other healthy foods, he said. Other building features include a dry storage area, space to sort products, drive-in docks and conference rooms for community leaders.
Those in charge of the agency hope that the hub will be operational by June. From then on, the Aurora plant will be able to place online orders for roadside collection or offer prepackaged boxes of groceries. The Naperville location and Bolingbrook satellite pantry will remain largely unchanged, Havala said.
“Our customers have a choice of how and where to get their products,” he said. “All of this stems from the fact that we have a significant need for food insecurity in our community. That need existed on a large scale before COVID, and COVID only increased that need.”
The nonprofit food aid program serves an average of 909 families a week during the pandemic, compared with 789 families prior to the outbreak, according to last year’s annual report. Loaves & Fishes primarily serves DuPage County’s residents, though officials say the organization’s new Aurora hub will help expand its reach.
“The opening of the new facility changes the game,” Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin said in a statement. “The addition of bread and fish to Aurora’s gourmet tapestry will enable more residents across the city to access healthy food.”