KAMLOOPS - Kamloops farmers, bakers and all other food makers rejoice. A shared processing facility will soon welcome food business owners looking to enhance their production and business models.
Kamloops Food Policy Council is one of six organizations in B.C. that has been given funding from the provincial government to test out a pilot project with the Food Hub Network.
The Food Hub Network is a provincial initiative that aims to encourage the production, packaging and sales of locally grown food. Through the use of shared processing facilities and professional development services, food businesses can increase their reach, quality and income.
Robyn McLean, Kamloops Food Hub project manager, says various community partners have pushed for the program in Kamloops. She says thanks to the funding of around $50,000, a pilot project will welcome six food business owners who want to take their production to the next level.
“It's important from the view of economics and job creation, but also from the point of view of resilience to things like climate change or economic upsets,” McLean says. “Being able to have a stronger local food system is really key.”
McLean says the funding will be used to secure a location that would offer large-scale kitchen equipment, packaging machinery, an industrial freezer, and a lab for testing for food safety and nutrition.
“There may be people growing food in the area or food businesses that can't access the infrastructure they need to grow their business,” Mclean says.
McLean says the pilot program will likely run from September to December. She says that food producers who are selling at Kamloops Farmers’ Market will have priority for available spots.
“What we're looking for is businesses that are already out there selling some product but they're interested in growing their businesses in some way,” McLean says. “In increasing their customers, increasing the amount of product they're producing, or getting into some different ways of selling their product.”
In addition to the pilot project, the funding will be used to offer professional guidance to people who want to start or grow their business.
“We’re teaming up with Kamloops Innovation to offer business mentorship support,” McLean says. “We’re hoping to have workshops for people who are interested in starting food businesses and want some of that support from the ground up.”
Conducting research will be a big part of the funding to determine how the hub could remain a constant fixture in Kamloops.
McLean says the main goal of a local food hub would be to have a self-sustaining location, paid for by rental fees from businesses and income from mentoring opportunities.
The B.C. Food Hub Network launched the first pilot project in March with the Commissary Connect location in Vancouver.
McLean points to Commissary Connect as an example to follow. The location not only offers services and equipment but also offers a pop-up rental restaurant and food truck.
“Instead of having to invest right away in their own food truck or their own brick and mortar space, they can rent these and just test their ideas out and tweak their systems,” McLean says.
Other locations receiving funding for the program include Victoria, Courtenay, Hazelton, North Vancouver and Nanaimo, according to a B.C. government news release.
Businesses interested in joining the pilot program can send McLean an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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