Local food hub in the works for Lambton

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Vegetables

You may soon be able to buy all your local produce in one spot.

The sustainable food group One Tomato is putting together a business plan for a local food hub.

Spokesperson Megan O’Neil-Renaud says the idea would be to have a main warehouse with cold storage in Sarnia so food service providers and homeowners would be able to access fresh local food in one place.

“The Front Door restaurant uses local food sources but it has to make multiple phone calls and drive around the country to get it,” says O’Neil-Renaud. “This would be one call and it would simplify it.”

O’Neil-Renaud says One Tomato has its eye on a large building in Sarnia and hopes to find funding to purchase it and convert some of the area to cold storage. “We don’t have cold storage in Lambton,” she says adding most of the locally grown apples have to be stored north of Lambton.

O’Neil-Renaud says the fine details of the plan have to be worked out but she says there will likely be a “store” and an online site to support it. “We’re looking at just in time delivery system, as we get orders for it …the producers would be able to bring it in,” she says. “There would also be a virtual element to it…producers can post what they have so people can go online and order it.”

One Tomato recently received verbal support from Lambton County for the project to help bolster any grant applications. O’Neil-Renaud says a local food hub is likely to cost about $1.5 million but there is money available. The provincial government has set aside $30 million to encourage local food production and she’s hoping to tap into that funding.

O’Neil-Renaud says groups like Lambton’s Food Coalition are pushing for 25 percent of food in places such as schools and nursing homes to be locally sourced, so there will be a need for the local food hub.

And she says, it will help local producers find a market for their goods. “You can’t have sustainable community without helping people who grow food,” she says. “If Vroylks’ (in Sarnia) has no where to take the potatoes, he has to market them on his own, if he has somewhere to take them he’ll want to continue farming.”

O’Neil-Renaud isn’t sure how long it will take to get the project off the ground.

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