Lorain County Community Action Agency recognizes the need for greater food security in its community. In response to its latest Community Needs Assessment and recent economic data, LCCAA has two new projects underway.
Work has begun to convert the agency’s Bike Shop into a food pantry in downtown Lorain. Meanwhile, in partnership with local developer United Properties, the agency will soon break ground on a food security center in Elyria.
“The pandemic exposed the challenges of food and nutrition insecurity in this country,” said LCCAA CEO Jackie Boehnlein. “Locally, food pantry usage is 30% higher than pre-pandemic levels. Food prices are definitely higher. Our less affluent families—including those who depend on school meals, SNAP and seniors on fixed incomes—need help.”
Boehnlein said the retail space of the bike shop will be converted and this summer staffed by workers in the Youth Services program. The new pantry will focus on fresh produce and perishable items that community members may have trouble accessing or affording. Once the pantry opens, youth will receive paid work experience to fulfill food orders and provide curbside services.
Meanwhile, youth services activities such as mentoring will continue on the upper floor of the building, known as the Ronald Nabakowski Youth Center.
The South Side Center will be built on privately-owned vacant lots on West Avenue between 15th and 16th Streets, near the South Elyria Public Library branch. A separate partnership agreement with the library built and operates the community garden on library property. The center will house a produce market and program intake offices, including utility assistance.
The 3,900-square-foot building will face West Avenue and feature a covered front entrance with sidewalk access, a rear entrance with a portico, a windowed cupola, exterior stone skirting, and a glass-paneled service door for an open-air market as weather permits. Seventeen parking spots will occupy the north side and rear of the building. Another lot on 16th Street will provide 17 more spaces.
“The center is being built to be adaptable and responsive to the neighborhood,” Boehnlein said. “We cannot wait to welcome everyone in.”