AIO Food and Energy Assistance has announced that the $1.2m capital campaign and the building are complete, with a scheduled opening in September.

“We did it! We are so grateful to our community — individuals, businesses and foundations — whose generous contributions have brought us to the finish line of our capital campaign, making AIO’s new building a reality. Thank you. With the campaign complete, we are now busy preparing the building in order to open to our clients in early September,” said AIO Board President Liz Jenkins.

AIO’s new 3,800 square foot building, located at 1A Gordon Drive in Rockland’s Industrial Park, includes a larger food market, larger client waiting room, a private intake office, consultative offices for the AIO Energy Assistance program, root cellar, loading dock, processing areas and commercial refrigeration.

“This is truly a project built by the community, for the community. I hope that it sends a clear message to all those who visit us: We care about you. We are dedicated to making your lives better. Yes, we provide groceries and heating…but this building means much more than that. It is about connection and community and we can’t wait to open the doors and welcome people in”, says Jenkins.

“The new facility has a bigger space for food storage, which is critical to ensure we can meet our clients’ needs,” says AIO Warehouse Manager Joe Ryan.

AIO says the first day in the new AIO Food Pantry will be Wednesday, Sept. 2. The Food Pantry will have expanded hours from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 4:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday evening.

AIO will return to client shopping in the pantry, which will allow clients to select food that best suits their families. This will also allow volunteers to provide attention to clients. In order to return to inside shopping, AIO will observe very strict procedures to keep everyone safe as the pandemic continues.

Feeding America (using the Map the Meal Gap model) and Good Shepherd Food Bank recently announced that statewide rates of hunger are projected to grow by 40% in 2020.

Knox County has the fourth highest rates in the state, with food insecurity projected to increase 46% overall. Knox County’s rate of childhood food insecurity is projected to increase by 52%; one in four kids will experience hunger.

“We have much to celebrate in completing our new building and I’m personally so grateful to everyone who helped make it happen. It truly has been a community wide effort, which includes long time donors, as well as many first-time donors who have only recently learned about AIO." said Jenkins.

"As I’ve said many times over this last year, together is better, and together we have built a place where anyone who needs support can find it. We are acutely aware that there is still much work ahead for AIO as we all continue to navigate the pandemic. I hope that our supporters will visit the building for a tour and see what they helped create…and that they will be inspired to stay involved with this important work- whether as a donor or a volunteer.

"As we anticipate our clients’ needs growing, so too will be AIO’s need for support on all fronts. There will be lots of opportunities to get involved. As we look to the future, we have plans to repurpose the old building, as well as expand on-site gardens and move the pantry to a carbon-neutral footprint."

AIO Food and Energy Assistance has been involved in the greater Rockland area for 30 years. For more information about AIO or how to get involved, contact Liz Jenkins at email@aiofoodpantry.org, and/or visit aiofoodpantry.org.