People lined up off Industry Center Road on Thursday afternoon with carts and bags in hand – some with children alongside them – waiting to pick up groceries at the nonprofit Epic-Cure’s St. Johns County warehouse.
With inflation and other factors, the nonprofit food rescuer and distributor has seen an increase in demand for its services – and it expects demand to rise. At the same time, staff is urgently seeking a new home in St. Johns County.
“It’s not the time for the biggest food (pantry) in St. Johns County to, you know, get put out of business … just for lack of space,” said Sunny Mulford, co-founder of the nonprofit.
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The mission of Epic-Cure, which launched in 2018, is to “eliminate hunger and food waste, protect the environment by keeping food out of landfills, and to teach self-reliance through cooking classes for veterans and to Title I school children.”
“We now rescue food from grocery stores, distributors and farms, and then we provide it for free to anybody in need,” Mulford said.
To do that, the nonprofit holds free food distributions at locations around the county and at its warehouse on Industry Center Road, where people can shop, choosing what they want from the warehouse.
Susan Johann was among the people waiting in line on Thursday. Typically, she comes every week to get food, she said.
“When I first heard about Epic-Cure, I was living in a building called Summer Breeze, and Epic-Cure started coming to the building every Monday. And it was just great, and it just made everything easy,” she said.
But after a change of ownership at the Epic-Cure headquarters, the nonprofit is looking for a new space, Mulford said. Epic-Cure has a lease until the end of the year, and it’s not clear if it will get a renewal.
Also, the lease can be ended at any time with 90 days notice, she said.
The operation is 100% volunteer run, including Sunny Mulford and her husband, Ken. The nonprofit can’t afford market-rate rent for a warehouse in St. Johns County, the couple said.
They’re looking for something at their current rate of about $4,000 a month with 5,000 square feet of warehouse space, which doesn’t need to be air-conditioned, Mulford said.
One possibility is on the table. The nonprofit is exploring buying a property with office and warehouse space for $2.7 million, she said. The nonprofit could rent out the offices and use that income to cover operational costs and construction of additional warehouse space, she said.
The nonprofit relies on donations. So to create the new headquarters, it has asked the St. Johns County government for money from the American Rescue Plan Act to buy the space, which is on U.S. 1 near State Road 207.
The county government supported having United Way of St. Johns County run the application process for nonprofits for more than $7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, said Melissa Nelson, United Way of St. Johns County’s president and CEO.
The United Way is working with a consultant on an application process, and once the county commission approves it, work can begin on accepting, reviewing and awarding grants, Nelson said. Any nonprofit in St. Johns County can apply.
Epic-Cure serves about 970 families a week in St. Johns County and about 800 families a week in Putnam County, Mulford said.
The nonprofit’s work includes, among other things:
Providing food for AmVets to cook hot meals for 125 senior veterans each week.
Providing food at Title I Schools for students and their families.
Providing groceries every week to St. Augustine Youth Services to help lower the organization’s costs of feeding residents and staff members.
Onsite food distribution once a month at the Emergency Services and Homeless Coalition of St. Johns County.
Weekly home deliveries to families identified by Flagler Care Connect.
Cooking classes at Woodlawn Terrace Apartments and the Boys and Girls Club.
Multiple weekly mobile food pantry events
For information, visit epic-cure.org or call 904-458-7145.
This article originally appeared on St. Augustine Record: St. Johns County food rescuer, distributor Epic-Cure needs new home