In an effort to provide resources to people who struggle to make ends meet week to week, a new non-profit will arrive in Ardmore. The Food & Resource Center of South Central Oklahoma will open in late 2015 or early 2016 and will combine the services of the House of Prayer and Loaves and Fishes.

“It’s about efficiency and expansion,” board member Derrick Harvey said.

Aaron Lokey, president of the center board, said the Regional Food Bank approached Ardmore about becoming home to a regional center. An advisory committee first met in September 2014. Members looked at other food banks.

The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is currently expanding from its previous nine sites. A new one recently opened in Durant with plans for five more, of which Ardmore is a site, to be added in the foreseeable future.

“Our mission is simple: to provide food security and promote self-sufficiency,” Lokey said. “Although the mission may sound simple, the task is monumental. Will you join us in the fight against hunger in South Central Oklahoma? We hope you will.”

The facility for the center is 801 Hailey Street. Lokey said the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma currently owns the building and will turn it over to the regional board after renovations. The building will feature a warehouse, grocery store type setting, freezer area and office space which could be conducive toward adding more resources for people.

“Healthy food choices are a luxury that can’t be afforded when living paycheck to paycheck,” Lokey said. “Food and resource centers provide greater access to more nutritious foods in a friendly, positive atmosphere. Benefits to the community will include a better utilization of community resources, increased efficiency and effectiveness, a greater understanding of the issue of hunger and volunteer opportunities as well as donor engagement.”

Harvey said the opportunity to provide nutritious meals that goes beyond simply providing food.

“There will be a demonstration area to help people know how to prepare a nutritious meal,” he said.

Lokey said with the collaboration of the House of Prayer and Loaves and Fishes, the center will be able to do so much more. The center will cover six counties, including: Carter, Love, Marshall, Murray, Johnston and Jefferson. Don Harrian, committee member and director of Loaves and Fishes said each center is tailor-made to the needs of the community.

“The primary focus of the organization is food,” Lokey said.” We offer client choice, which restores the dignity to the process. It is like a shopping experience. It’s a very dignified process.”

Lokey said a lot of the clientele for the center is considered working poor. With the combination of the two agencies, the center expects to quadruple the number of people currently served. House of Prayer serves 300 families a week and Loaves and Fishes does that number in a week.

“Our guess is 150 to 200 people a day,” Lokey said.

There are five food and resource centers fully operational in the Oklahoma City metro area and five are operating outside the metro in Durant, Enid, Elk City, Lawton and Weatherford. The Regional Food Bank continues to support the centers with ongoing training, capacity building and priority access to food and equipment grants, as well as guidance on fundraising, marketing and volunteer equipment.

The board has eight people on it but there remains much work to be done including identifying an individual to direct operations.

“One of the biggest things we are still looking for is an executive director,” Lokey said.

With the space available, there is an opportunity to expand services. What those services may entail have not be been defined to date. But the potential to serve people on more than one level at one site does hold a certain appeal.

“We will have clients here, we will have many people right here at our fingertips,” Lokey said. “The vision is bigger than our board.”

@mpinedaARD