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Council to consider making County Food Hub a project of community interest

Council, at its Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday, will examine declaring the County Food Hub at Sophiasburgh School a project of community interest for the purpose of issuing official income tax receipts to donors for the project.

All fundraising proceeds and donations received for the County Food Hub would be used for expenditures on the capital costs associated with the project, with any residual funds going toward future operating costs.

Council agreed in principle, in August last year, to support the project. At Tuesday’s council meeting council also agreed to provide a $75,000 community grant – of which most will be required to generate engineering designs required by the Hastings Prince Edward Board of Education before it makes its final decision on allowing the project to move forward to keep the school viable for students in Sophiasburgh.

Mike Farrell, co-chair of the steering committee with Todd Foster, reminded councillors of the purpose of the project – above and beyond helping to save the rural school from closing its doors.

The County Food Hub steering committee co-chairs Mike Farrell (left) and Todd Foster.

“We want to provide Ontario with a model approach to strengthening rural education. We have a lot of eyes on this project. We’re making use of surplus school space to provide educational opportunities for students and social and economic opportunities for the local communities. It’s about education, and health.”

The County Food Hub intends to provide multiple healthy food product development opportunities for local entrepreneurs to learn how to take their ideas to market. The shared commercial kitchen, he said, is a key aspect of the business plan, noting dozens of different businesses are lined up to participate.

“It’s also to provide support for healthy food distribution,” he said. “We talk about food insecurity all the time. It’s really about the knowledge and the power of nutrition and how to prepare and take what we have and make much better use of it for our community so that more underserved local families have access to local food at a reasonable cost.”

He said plans include space and resources for food service training “to support the fast-growing culinary industry here in the region – again, not tremendously served here in the County.”

In the midst, the County Food Hub will be developing an innovative curriculum to encourage a lifetime commitment to healthy eating, food sustainability and keen appreciation of the local food industry opportunities for the students at the school, around the County and in the region.

The project name has been changed from the Sophiasburgh Hub to provide greater appeal to the community at large. Over the past four months, its steering committee has been developing its business case and plan, commissioning drawings for the space, identifying user groups and sources for capital funding.

The Hub will seek to be an incorporated not-for-profit. Should the project not move forward, funds received above and beyond expenses will be returned.

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