Posted Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

The Morris County Board of Freeholders has agreed to lease property on Executive Drive in Parsippany to the Interfaith Food Pantry of Morris County for $1 a year.

As a result of the freeholder board’s action, the Food Pantry will be able to break ground at the site for the construction of a new 13,000-square-foot facility that will serve as its warehouse, offices and primary distribution site.

The new building, funded by private donations from the community, will feature the Pantry’s signature “Client Choice” center, which allows patrons to select the foods that most meet their family needs.

Also included in the new facility will be more than 3,200 square feet of warehouse space, a loading dock, refrigerators and freezers and counseling and interview rooms. In addition, there will be an education center for self-sufficiency workshops, a “Healthy Choices” nutrition program and a commercial kitchen that will enable the Pantry to reclaim food locally.

For the past 11 years, the Food Pantry has been housed in the county’s former Morris View Nursing Home on West Hanover Avenue in Morris Township. However, Rosemary Gilmartin, the Food Pantry’s executive director, said the agency has outgrown that space.

“By 2009, we were collecting and giving out almost 15,000 pounds a week,” Gilmartin said. “While the support of the community made it possible to keep up with the demand for food and volunteers, the current space is no longer viable. We had reached a critical stage when Morris County Freeholder John Murphy stepped forward and offered to help find a solution.”

The solution Murphy suggested was for the freeholders to lease a parcel of the former Greystone property Morris purchased from the state in 2003 to the Food Pantry so the agency could build a new facility.

“This project is a great example of how government and private charities like the Interfaith Food Pantry can work together to help meet the very basic needs of our constituents,” Freeholder Murphy said.

The Food Pantry’s new building will be at 2 Executive Drive in Parsippany adjacent to the new non-profit “mall” the freeholders plan to develop that now includes the Interfaith Council for Homeless Families, the Eric Johnson House and Hope House.

These three nonprofit organizations are collaborating to use the space to provide increased services to their clients, homeless families and those suffering from HIV and AIDS.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new Food Pantry facility will take place Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 1 p.m.