All Faiths Food Bank in Sarasota Becomes More Resource-Efficient and Improves Indoor Air Quality During COVID-19

Building Health

All Faiths Food Bank has been relieving hunger in the Sarasota, Florida, community since 1989, and like other social service providers across the country, demand surged in 2020 as Covid-19 spread across the country.

In fact, 49% of All Faith’s clients were new last year.

In order to keep up with need, the food bank took a number of measures including increasing shifts, created pre-packaged ‘no touch’ boxes, started a drive-thru model, held mass distributions in key locations and partnered with Sarasota and DeSoto County School Districts, Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County, Children First and Girls Inc. to distribute food to children and families.

Their work during the pandemic has been a massive undertaking yet did not encompass everything they accomplished.

Staff member Amber Lee washes her hands at a sink equipped with a new automatic faucet, which will help save water.

The organization had been making a number of energy and water efficiency upgrades to reduce its environmental footprint and cut costs. It also wanted to improve the indoor air quality for the wellness of its staff and volunteers, especially since Covid-19 is an airborne virus and transmission could potentially be reduced with better ventilation.

The organization had already begun installing motion sensor lighting, timed lights, LEDs, shade trees, electricity-powered refrigerated trailers, white reflective roofing and extended awnings starting in 2017, but they really needed additional expertise for the next phase. Southface’s GoodUse matching grant program was there to offer an assessment of opportunities, technical support and financial assistance.

“Southface Institute helped us through the entire process as a true partner in our success,” said Sandra Frank, CEO of All Faiths Food Bank. “Not only did we receive expert advice and education on sustainability from Southface, but every penny of the savings we will enjoy due to the improvements we made will be reinvested in our critical, lifesaving work.”

All Faiths received a $27,000 matching grant to make a number of upgrades, including:

  • Installing window film that will greatly reduce heat and infrared light
  • Replacing traditional toilets with low-flow water models
  • Installing automatic faucets
  • Upgrading the HVAC systems that improve safety for employees and volunteers and reduce stress on the air conditioning system

“The work All Faiths did will have a big impact especially due to Covid-19,” said Gretchen Gigley, Southface GoodUse Program Manager. “We focused particularly on indoor air quality projects to improve health and comfort, and given how important indoor air quality is during this pandemic, these improvements mean so much more.”

Food Bank staff said improved indoor air quality has helped in the sorting room where volunteers and employees work, and the cooling effect from window film has eliminated the need for fans in the business offices.

Overall, nonprofit buildings contribute approximately 20% of the primary energy consumption in the United States, so the capacity for savings, both financially and environmentally, is significant.  And, with food banks’ changing needs during Covid-19, including greater demand and an increased focus on providing fresh food, their energy use is likely to climb as a result.

This is All Faiths’ first GoodUse grant, one of 19 grants awarded during this most recent round of funding, and they are one of two Sarasota-based organizations to receive a grant.

As the food bank grows and the need to expand becomes evident, Frank said the organization will look to include GoodUse in evaluating electricity use, refrigeration, HVAC and water usage.

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