Bruce Etkin has been involved with Food Bank of the Rockies for more than a quarter-century. He once served as a board member for the nonprofit organization and has been among the most generous donors to its cause.

Because of that history, his name will soon grace the organization’s primary location in the Grand Valley.

Food Bank of the Rockies is currently building the Western Slope Etkin Family Distribution Center, a 50,400-square-foot warehouse and food distribution center. The facility is the result of a $10.8 million capital campaign and will be located at 698 Long Acre Drive in Grand Junction.

This facility will replace the current 28,600-square-foot facility in Palisade.

“It took a lot of collaboration in our community and people with a vision of what’s possible in our community,” said Food Bank of the Rockies Director Sue Ellen Rodwick. “More space helps, and then having a great design means we’ll be more efficient in what we’re doing. We’ll be able to provide more perishable items, provide more local produce and reduce costs to bring that food to people who need it.”

This new space will bolster the nonprofit’s collaborative efforts with organizations such as the Western Colorado Community Foundation and St. Mary’s Medical Center’s Meals on Wheels Mesa County.

At the start of 2021, Grand Junction authorized a $250,000 grant to aid in hunger relief, a grant that was administered by the Western Colorado Community Foundation. This new warehouse will only increase its capabilities.

“It really makes me glad that we have those partnerships because collaboratively, we can do so much more than we can do individually,” Rodwick said. “We have a lot of excitement over what’s to come.”

Grand Junction Mayor Chuck McDaniel and two City Council members, Rick Taggart and Abe Herman, attended Thursday’s ceremony celebrating the project.

McDaniel said he and his wife, Kendra, have been longtime supporters of the Food Bank of the Rockies.

“Food insecurity is a growing concern across our community, the state and the county, and unfortunately, this problem has been around for years, but the pandemic has made the challenge even worse,” McDaniel said. “We have seen people that have never needed assistance now needing it. Food insecurity is an issue for which the city has a continued concern.

“One statistic that always startles me is the number of District 51 students eligible for free or reduced lunch,” McDaniel said.

“I’ve never seen it under 40%. Today, the last data dashboard says it’s 44% of students require free or reduced-price lunches. That, to me, is a great indicator of how much need there is in our community,” he said.

Fortunately, Food Bank of the Rockies’ move to Grand Junction from Palisade will allow the city to provide more support for it.

“In the city’s 2022 budget, we have a grant of $50,000 to go to the Food Bank for this building,” McDaniel said. “Federal regulations and sometimes our own requirements limit us geographically to institutions that have an address in the city of Grand Junction. Because the Food Bank has been in Palisade, we have some limits on our ability to support them. As a community, we must come together to continue to address this issue.”