Food hub could make locally sourced food more accessible to Edmontonians

A new proposal for a food hub in Edmonton could make it easier for farmers to get their product to market — and for shoppers to get access to local food.

A city report, to be reviewed by the executive committee on Monday, says the food hub would be a “multi-purpose facility … that brings together a wide spectrum of food and agriculture-related activities.” The goal is to increase access to sustainable, locally sourced food.

A permanent farmers’ market and commercial kitchen could be part of the hub, as well as storage and distribution services for several regional food producers.

The city report proposes the project be developed on a portion of the Edmonton Exhibition Lands as part of the redevelopment of the area.

Consultant Darren Stott, who put together the feasibility report for the project, said it’s an ideal location for the development.

“They’re already acting like a food hub in a really informal way,” he said, highlighting that Northlands has an urban farm and kitchen space, and helps connect food producers and buyers.

Edmonton is one of the largest cities, certainly in Canada, that doesn’t have something like this.– Darren Stott, Greenchain Consulting

The centrally located development could fill a gap in Edmonton, Stott said.

“Edmonton is one of the largest cities, certainly in Canada, that doesn’t have something like this,” he said, adding that there are more than 300 food hubs across Canada and the United States.

“We see indoor markets, public markets in a lot of large cities. And we see these as a huge success for neighbourhood rejuvenation, tourism attraction and supporting local businesses.”

The city report also noted the hub could create jobs, improve environmental quality and increase food security, which is the ability to have dependable access to nutritious food.

Supporting local food producers

Stott said the project would help farmers and other producers sell their food directly to local consumers.

The feasibility report determined a food hub could be a good fit for the city, as there are several small to medium-sized food producers in the area.

“We found that there wasn’t enough infrastructure in place to support small and medium-sized producers to get their product to market,” Stott said, noting that interest in buying local is growing.

Forty stakeholders took part in public engagement in summer 2017, and Stott said they responded positively to the idea.

The project would require collaboration between several stakeholders, which Stott said could be challenging, as each stakeholder would have different needs to address.

Estimated start-up costs for the first phase of development are between $1 million and $1.5 million. Funding could come from grants, loans, or the provincial or municipal government.

City involvement in the project has yet to be determined.

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