Food Bank Mural-When a Building Becomes a Billboard

While a picture may be worth a thousand words, the Merced County Food Bank hopes a mural along the west side of their warehouse is worth a few moments of our time to think about the issue of hunger.

The new mural on the west side of the Merced County Food Bank warehouse.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The mural is being seen by hundreds of drivers passing by daily along highway 59 at Olive Avenue in Merced.   The mural’s message is summed up by the three words to the far right end of the warehouse wall:  help fight hunger.

Over the past few weeks a local artist has been painting the mural.   The artist is Ramon Valencia who works for a design firm called The Mariposa Art Company.  The Company does a variety of original artwork on buildings, along with other graphic design services for businesses including business cards, t-shirts, and banners.

The idea for painting a mural on the side of the building came after Food Bank board members saw a wall mural at the local United Way office in Merced.  Some inquiries were made. The Food Bank board was pleasantly surprised with the opportunity presented by the Mariposa Art Company.

Food Bank Executive Director Bill Gibbs says the Mariposa Art Company is donating a lot of its time and resources to the project.  In addition to Ramon’s and an assistant’s time, more than three-thousand dollars in paint has been donated by the company. 

The use of an industrial lift being used on the project was donated by United Rentals.  The Food Bank will spend approximately $1,500 as its share of the total cost.  

It is estimated a mural of this size would cost between ten and fifteen-thousand dollars if the labor and materials were not donated.

“The cost to the Food Bank is worth it to raise awareness about hunger,” Bill Gibbs says.  “I can’t tell you how many times people or donors have told us they didn’t know there was a food bank in Merced County.”

 The work of artist Ramon Valencia is now part of the Merced County Food Bank warehouse.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The mural depicts the valley’s deep agricultural heritage

The bottom half is solid brown representing the soil (and hopefully a hedge to a quick paint-over in the event of a graffiti attack). It shows a wagon or trailer filled with crates of fruits and vegetables.  Farm fields, a bright blue sky, and the mighty sun fill out the rest of the mural.

The project has taken the better part of July to complete. The biggest challenge so far has been the heat.  “Ramon told me our extreme temperatures are even hotter against the side of the building,” Bill says.  “Some days, the paint dries as soon as it’s applied making the blending of colors a challenge.” 

Ramon manages that challenge by doing some of his work in the early morning or early evening hours.

Over 17,000 people served

The Food Bank acquires, stores, and distributes food for one-hundred non-profit groups in Mariposa and Merced Counties. 

More than five-and-a-half million pounds of food passes through the Olive Avenue warehouse in a year.  Every month, seventeen thousand people are served by this organization and associated non-profit groups that are part of the Food Bank network. 

Volunteers help sort and move much of the food that comes into the warehouse.  The volunteers augment the regular staff making sure the food is readily available to meet the need in the two counties.

The mural’s message:  help fight hunger.  Photo by Steve Newvine

So the message is now clearer than ever at the far right of the mural on the west side of the Food Bank warehouse. 

Three simple words make the case for raising awareness and supporting initiatives that help those in need of food:  help fight hunger.

The new Food Bank website address is