Yvette Kelly-Fields stands in the new climated-controlled food pantry at the Wesley Community Center. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

West Dayton needs more healthy food. How one group plans to help.

The Wesley Community Center for the first time in its 52-year history will have a commercial refrigerator and freezer to help feed more needy people.

The West Dayton center Tuesday unveiled the upgraded food pantry on #GivingTuesday and shared plans to increase the number of people it feeds by about 10 percent.

West Dayton could get a new grocery store in the former Aldi space in the Westown Shopping Center, and a new full-service cooperative market is planned for lower Salem Avenue.

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But large sections of the west side are food deserts and hunger relief is needed immediately, said Yvette Kelly-Fields, executive director of the Wesley Community Center

Wesley Community Center hopes to help ease the local hunger burden with expanded space to distribute and store more food, she said.

“It’s about having capacity to do more to meet the needs of the people in the community,” she said.

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The Wesley Community Center, at 3730 Delphos Ave. in the Westwood neighborhood, will have an enclosed, climate-controlled food pantry to provide families with a well-lit and welcoming shopping experience, said Kelly-Fields.

The investment was roughly $200,000 to $300,000 and included repaving of the parking lot. Volunteers helped build key parts of the new pantry.

The center, which distributes food to about 7,000 to 8,000 people each year, in the past used some donated refrigerators to keep food fresh.

There was very limited storage space, meaning the center could not accept much fresh food unless it could distribute items away quickly, Kelly-Fields said.

Wesley Center gets food from the Dayton Food Bank and local churches.

But the center will now have a brand new, walk-in refrigerator and freezer that should allow it to store and distribute about 40 percent more fruits and vegetables and more meat products, Kelly-Fields said.

The center had to turn down offers for donated turkeys for Thanksgiving because there was nowhere to store them. That won’t be a problem in the future.

Wesley Center wants to be a food access point because poor diets are contributing to health and wellness problems like diabetes and high blood pressure, Kelly-Fields said.

Wesley Center also is partnering with an organic farm for a once-a-month event where visitors can buy chicken and other meat products at affordable prices, Kelly-Fields said.

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