The Pan Cape Breton Food Hub Co-op is a nonprofit organization that has been operating for three years with a simple mission — to make it easy to get products from local food producers to local consumers.
The Food Hub works with about 40 producers throughout Cape Breton Island who sell vegetables, meats, seafood, baked goods, and other value-added food products. The Food Hub essentially operates as an online grocery store. Producer members log in to list their products for sale. Consumers log in to order the food they want, and the Food Hub arranges to pick it up and deliver it to a distribution centre in one of seven communities across the Island.
“The Food Hub has really allowed producers to grow their farms by providing a new market for their products,” said Alicia Lake, Coordinator of the Pan Cape Breton Food Hub. “Since we’ve been in operation, we’ve seen some producers quit their off-farm jobs so they can farm full time, and we’ve seen others actually hiring workers to help meet the increased demand that we’ve created. It’s really exciting to witness the change.”
Local restaurants like the Telegraph House in Baddeck are also beginning to use the Food Hub. Having access to fresh local produce has improved the quality of the food being served to their customers.
“As a local business, I am happy to support local farmers,” said Sean Dunlop, owner of Telegraph House. “Many of our guests actually stop me after they’ve eaten, and thank me for the quality of the food we are putting on the plate.”
The Pan Cape Breton Food Hub was set up as a multi-stakeholder co-op. Its board members include producers, consumers, restaurants, and other organizations involved in the food industry. Lake credits the many perspectives on the board with the development of a successful business model.
“One thing we did is look at the local community and think about how we could leverage existing assets, versus trying to raise a bunch of money and create infrastructure from scratch,” said Lake. “What organizations and businesses could we partner with to help us achieve our goals? Taking this approach got us up and running much faster.”
Looking to the future, Lake says one of their challenges is to grow both sellers and buyers at a rate where the supply doesn’t exceed the demand, and vice versa. As well, the local infrastructure has to grow at the same time — processing plants, storage facilities, and transportation networks.
“In the future I believe that we will continue to grow and attract new producers into the food industry, and I hope that we can convince more and more people in Cape Breton that they should be sourcing more food locally, and supporting local businesses.”
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For further information, call Alicia at 902-577-3260 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org