Clean room at Feeding America Southwest Virginia saves money and eliminates waste

The newly finished clean room allows workers to split up bulk items for families

By Erin Brookshier - Virginia Today Reporter

SALEM, Va. - A clean room at Feeding America Southwest Virginia is changing the way food is given out. The easily sanitized room is making it easier for employees and volunteers to split up the donations.

It's a project that started late last year, and after about four months of construction the new clean room is expected to be up and running within the next few weeks.

The idea behind the room is simple - it's a closed off room that can be cleaned from top to bottom. The ceilings, walls and floors are all water-proof and easy to wash. It creates an atmosphere where multiple types of food can be brought in, without the fear of cross-contamination. 

It's an idea that Amanda Allen, the marketing and communication coordinator with Feeding America Southwest Virginia, says is all possible because of a $50,000 grant from the Roanoke Women's Foundation.

Having a room where bulk items can be split up into smaller portions is expected to save Feeding America Southwest Virginia more money in the long run and help cut down on waste.

"This clean room allows us to do something we've never done before at Feeding America Southwest Virginia, which is to separate and repackage bulk food items," says Allen. "The food bank gets the opportunity to buy food items, like pasta, rice or cereal in these big several hundred pound bulk totes. When we purchase those, it's less expensive for us and gives us a steady supply of the staple foods for out clients."

She says the clean room allows them to do that work without having to worry about allergies or fear of cross-contamination.

"If we have a cereal grain we're handling, that might have gluten in it," says Allen. "We'll have to wash down the ceiling, wash down the walls and make sure everything is clean before we bring in something else, like rice, to make sure there's no cross contamination of those allergens. It saves us money, it saves from waste and it makes sure our clients have a steady supply of those things to eat."

Construction on the room is now complete. Final touches are being put in place before the clean room is up and running in the next few weeks.

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