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May 19, 2019

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Souped-up Three Square food bank could serve as model

Three Square

Steve Marcus

New digs: Volunteers from the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Las Vegas work at a demonstration kitchen during the Aug. 19 grand opening of Three Square’s second warehouse.

Click to enlarge photo

A view of the newest Three Square warehouse, left, on Aug. 19. The building at right is the original warehouse.

Three Square turkey shortage

As the warehouse door is opened representatives from agencies across the Las Vegas valley rush the Three Square warehouse to collect food for the Thanksgiving meals they will distribute Thursday morning. Launch slideshow »

As an employed businessperson, whenever you feel a pang of hunger, you know it’s temporary. There’s the office vending machine, the business lunch, maybe happy hour after work.

But for 70,000 people in the Las Vegas Valley, their hunger isn’t temporary.

I was reminded of this when I attended the dedication of Three Square food bank’s completed campus, with the Donald W. Reynolds Building as an impressive addition to the original warehouse.

Before walking into the new building, I expected more of the same: Rows of donated food and volunteers and employees working diligently filling shopping carts for their soup kitchens, stuffing backpacks with weekend meals for children and unloading trucks of donated food from retailers and groceries.

When I walked in the front door, I was taken aback. This is not your average food bank. This facility could serve as a model for other food banks, and even nonprofit groups with different missions.

There’s a demonstration kitchen, another larger kitchen to prepare meals, a community room, agency store, volunteer room and administrative offices. Half of the building is used as a warehouse. The other building will to be used, too, for warehousing and backpack stuffing.

Many of the large gaming companies and Le Cordon Bleu culinary school send over their chefs, students and employees to prepare meals.

I’m told that Three Square may also use the demonstration kitchen for a cable cooking show to teach people how to prepare wholesome, economical meals with few ingredients.

Three Square hasn’t been around for long. It started in 2006 as a replacement for the failed Community Food Bank that Clark County commissioners shut down. It was the brainchild of Eric Hilton of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. After building a board of directors and a game plan, the commission donated the previous food bank’s facility to Three Square.

Since then, Three Square has redeveloped and renovated its 120,000-square-foot campus with the help of donors.

The bulk of the 70,000-square-foot building’s funding came from a $9.4 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

One in 10 Nevada households deal with hunger, the Agriculture Department says.

Hilton Foundation President Steve Hilton, son of Conrad Hilton, said it’s ironic that the U.S., considered among the richest nations, has people who suffer from hunger when other countries fare better.

“In this great country of ours, in some ways it’s sad that we’re sitting here,” Hilton said.

Three Square CEO Julie Murray said it takes the community working together to combat hunger. Businesses can support the food bank in many ways, such as sending volunteers, in-kind gifts and professional services; sponsor food drives; and pack food for the school distribution program.

But it’s money that is needed the most. Every single dollar is worth three meals, Murray said.

The foundations have challenged the business community, she said. “We built it, now we’re challenging businesses to come through and help.”

The Reynolds Foundation provided much of the money to purchase and renovate the second building.

“Our goal is to provide the best facility, and let the organization raise the support,” said Steven Anderson, president of the foundation. “The business community has stepped up in a big way, but more can be done.”

While everyone packed into a 200-seat room to celebrate the completion of the second building was noted for their contribution, Three Square made special mention of the Reynolds and Hilton foundations, as well as the Lincy Foundation, all major contributors to the effort.

Of course, there are many, many other nonprofit groups that could benefit from your business’ support.

Experts I’ve spoken with suggest talking with your workforce, find out where its philanthropic passions lie, whether it’s children, animals or something else, and take it from there.

Nicole Lucht covers health care, workplace, energy and banking issues for In Business Las Vegas and its sister publication, the Las Vegas Sun. She can be reached at 259-8832 or at [email protected]

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