Naperville's Loaves & Fishes opening new hub in Aurora
Loaves & Fishes Community Services has acquired an Aurora warehouse that will help the nonprofit revamp its strategy for delivering food and services.
The new 30,000-square-foot facility at 580 Exchange Court will serve as the organization's central hub, where food products will be received, stored, processed and distributed to what leaders are calling the "spokes," CEO Mike Havala said. Those include home deliveries, mobile markets, the Bolingbrook satellite pantry or the existing Naperville headquarters, where the Loaves & Fishes offices, CARES programs and grocery market will remain.
The nonprofit adopted the "hub-and-spoke model" as part of its most recent strategic plan, aiming to provide greater convenience and flexibility depending on client choice, demand and other circumstances, Havala said.
The restructuring initiative, called "Building for Lasting Impact," stems from an analysis of the Loaves & Fishes operations and geographical service area, he said.
The study was conducted about two years ago with help from the University of Chicago Booth Alumni Nonprofit Consultants.
"Acquisition of the building ... really is a seed change that allows us to do things differently, which will result in a lot of good things for our clients," Havala said. "It allows us to have a model that's more efficient, and one that we can scale."
Loaves & Fishes has launched a capital campaign to raise money for the $3.1 million project, which covers the purchase price of the property and costs to build out the warehouse, Havala said.
Drive-in freezer and refrigeration units are expected to be installed to increase the organization's inventory of fresh produce, dairy and other healthy food, he said. Other building features include a dry storage area, space for sorting products, drive-in docks, and conference rooms for community leaders.
Agency leaders hope the hub will be operational by June, at which point the Aurora facility will be able to fulfill online orders for curbside pickup or offer pre-packed boxes of groceries. The Naperville site and Bolingbrook satellite pantry will remain largely unchanged, Havala said.
"Our clients will have choices in how and where they get their products," he said. "This all stems from the fact that we have a significant need in our community with food insecurity. That need existed in a big way pre-COVID, and COVID has only added to that need."
The nonprofit's grocery assistance program serves an average of 909 families per week during the pandemic, compared to 789 families before the outbreak, according last year's annual report. Loaves & Fishes primarily serves residents in DuPage County, though officials say the new Aurora hub helps the organization expand its outreach.
"The opening of its new facility is a game changer," Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin said in a statement. "The addition of Loaves & Fishes to the food services tapestry of Aurora will allow more residents to access healthy foods across the city."