An initiative that started as a bid to save Sophiasburgh Central School from closure and has flourished into a commercial resource utilized by local agri-food businesses is getting a helping hand from the Government of Canada.
Bay of Quinte MP and Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food parliamentary secretary Neil Ellis was on hand at the County Food Hub on Friday to announce a federal funding investment of $74,350 that will allow the organization to source and professionally install a walk-in cooler, gas powered steam kettle, reach-in blast chiller and a variety of small kitchen appliances.
The funds are part of a $338,708 envelope for seven community-based agriculture and agri-food organizations throughout Eastern Ontario. Ellis said an increasing number of Canadians have faced challenges in putting food on their tables due to COVID-19.
“Even before the pandemic, too many Canadians were struggling to access safe and healthy food. The Government of Canada is committed to helping communities invest in infrastructure that will improve their food security and increase access to healthy, nutritious and local foods for families in need,” the MP stated.
The Prince Edward County Food Hub is a not-for-profit, certified commercial kitchen that services small-scale food operations, caterers, food truck proprietors, restaurants, and not-for-profit food security organizations. Among those leasing storage space and renting blocks of commercial kitchen time is County Fare, a group producing locally-sourced artisanal quality preserves since 2012 who were able to showcase their process for MP Ellis, County Mayor Steve Ferguson and councillor Phil St. Jean.
Hub General Manager Mike Farrell noted the organization was launched just months before the CVOID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Despite times of uncertainty and public health restrictions, the County Food Hub has been there from the outset supporting local food security groups to produce high volumes of nutritious, ready-to-heat meals destined for distribution to residents-in-need across Prince Edward County.
“With a slate of start-up -and growing- local value-added food businesses now regularly using our shared commercial kitchen and storage facilities, this Local Food Infrastructure Fund comes as a needed boost for our social enterprise,” Farrell said. “The Hub looks forward to being able to position ourselves even more robustly as the local agri-food economy grows, along with our continued community food requirements. Funds will be focused on more efficient, higher volume food production, a suite of packaging and storage solutions to match our demand and a new baking lab.”
Other recipients include:
• Peterborough’s Community Training and Development Centre for Innovation and Improvement is receiving up to $23,526 for a blast chiller and a dehydrator to further maximize meals’ nutritional value through blast freezing.
• The Boys and Girls Clubs of Kawartha Lakes is receiving up to $30,238 for energy-efficient refrigeration and freezer units, commercial dishwashers, commercial sink, faucet, shelving units, stainless steel work tables and small kitchenware.
• Cannington’s Nourish & Develop Foundation received up to $45,550 for a Mobile Food Market by retrofitting an existing van into a refrigerated vehicle, as well as the purchase and retrofit of a cargo trailer to act as a market stand.
• The Society of St. Vincent de Paul received up to $17,000 for the purchase of a new 7’x7′ walk-in cooler to replace the current aging cooler that became inefficient, allowing them to provide fresh food to those in need of assistance.
• The Renfrew and District Food Bank received up to $101,542 for a refrigerated cargo vehicle, the purchase of food handling and storage equipment, and the construction of an irrigated community garden that will provide an additional source of fresh and nutritious food for the food bank.
• The Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre is receiving up to $46,502 for the acquisition of equipment, including a LED lighting system and a commercial refrigerator to produce crops at full capacity, doubling their production of nutrient-dense microgreens year-round in their existing greenhouse.
Projects and final funding are subject to negotiation of a contribution agreement.