The largest source of food that we receive comes from Feeding America through the Choice System, which provides us with truckloads of dry/shelf stable food, as well as refrigerated/frozen goods. This is food that Feeding America solicits directly from manufacturers and farmers and makes available to the 200 food banks across the nation through a bidding system using shares allocated to each food bank, which we in turn use to acquire desired products. Although this food is free, Care and Share is responsible for the shipping fees to transport the acquired loads of food from their origination throughout the U.S. to Colorado, which runs from $2,000-$4,000. Loads of produce are acquired on a first-come-first-served basis through a system called Produce Matchmaker. Produce carries a Value-Added Processing fee, which includes packaging and handling fees to ensure that the product arrives in good condition. These costs will range from $2,000-$6,000 per truck load and transportation costs are added. Transportation and processing expenses are quite substantial because we distribute more than 21 million pounds of food annually. In addition, we pay our Care and Share staff, and the maintenance and fuel for our vehicles, to pick up the food that we procure from local food donors such as Walmart.
We also pay for the safe storage of this food. Our utility costs for our main facility, which is a 50,000 square foot warehouse located in Colorado Springs, run from $7,000-$8,000 each month in large part because of our freezer and refrigeration units, which together account for 9,000 square feet. We also have a smaller warehouse in Pueblo and have just acquired an additional 2,000 square feet to accommodate our increased food distribution efforts. Other expenses include our warehouse staff members that receive, sort, palletize, and distribute the food.
We have more than 300 partner agencies that all receive a certain amount of free food (produce, bread, pastries, food drive food, misc. frozen food items, and misc. refrigerated food, such as dairy products), but they all have the ability to purchase additional food from us at a cost that is far below what they would pay at a grocery store. This rate is set by the federal government and cannot exceed $0.19 per pound. This is a shared maintenance fee that helps Care and Share with a portion of food procurement, transportation, and warehousing expenses that we described above.
Roughly 87% of the food we distribute has no shared maintenance fee attached, meaning that our agencies receive this food for free. If you average in the amount of free food we distribute, our partner agencies pay an average $0.023 per pound of food.
We have an additional way for our partner agencies to access food through our Purchased Food Program. We purchase basic staples, such as pasta, pasta sauce, peanut butter and jelly, beans, soups, etc., and make this food available for purchase to our partner agencies to supplement their pantries. This is brand new, shelf-stable goods that are not donated, and are similar to what you may find at a grocery store but with better pricing. This is separate from our donated food program, and allows our partner agencies to enjoy a cost savings and the convenience of picking up (or having it delivered, depending on their location) the purchased food at Care and Share.