NEW YORK — With its warehouse across the street from the Hunt’s Point Terminal Market, the Food Bank For New York City has easy access to produce donations from the many distributors that help it fight hunger.

Produce industry contributes heavily to feeding New York’s hungry

To more efficiently handle all of the fresh produce donations it receives, the food bank is building a repacking area in its warehouse.

About 1.3 million people living in the five boroughs of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island depend on food pantries and soup kitchen for sustenance.

During fiscal 2008-09, the food bank distributed 63 million pounds of food to children, the aged, the working poor and people with disabilities from 1,000 pantries and soup kitchens the food bank serves.

Fresh produce accounted for more than 13 million pounds, higher than the organization’s goal, said David Grossnickle, director of food sourcing.

“Healthy and nutritious food is paramount for the population that we are serving, especially fresh produce,” he said. “In so many areas of the city, it’s sometimes a challenge to get. And when clients can often obtain it, it’s oftentimes cost-prohibitive.”

Produce industry contributes heavily to feeding New York’s hungry

Courtesy Food Bank for New York City

Workers unload donated produce for distribution by the Food Bank for New YorkCity.

To handle bins and larger loads of donated produce, the food bank plans to build a dedicated repacking room in its 90,000-square-foot warehouse by June.

Once it begins operations, the repacking area’s 30 volunteers will be able to take apples from bins and pack into smaller bins that food pantries can accept, he said.

Many agencies the food bank supplies can’t use apples or other items in bins because they don’t have storage space or the ability to unload trucks, Grossnickle said.

Distributors on the market laud the food bank for its efforts.

“They do a good job,” said Rene Gosselin, operations manager for Coosemans New York Inc. “They walk the whole market and try to get as much product as possible. Sometimes, they come here two to three times a week.”

Gosselin said much of the product that Coosemans and other wholesalers donate is sellable but doesn’t have the clientele.

The product may have cosmetic issues but is still edible.

If they have to dump the product, the distributor has to pay dumping fees.

Nick Pacia, co-owner and vice president of A.J. Trucco Inc., said the food bank provides a valuable service.

“They collect a lot of food and help many people,” he said.