There’s a lot of talk in food security circles these days about food hubs. A central location where all food activities can take place. There might be a community garden and commercial kitchen on site, a farmers’ market, cooking and canning classes. Small processors may have access to the kitchen. With a warehouse and cold storage, the hub can also serve as a central distribution point for farmers and market gardeners.
The industrious food gang in the City of Richmond has come up with a beautiful vision for their Garden City Lands: a Sustainable Food Systems Park. They have incorporated farmer training into their plan. So has Colony Farms, a Metro Vancouver Regional Park with a mandate for agriculture. Imagine that! The town of Hardwick, Vermont turned the entire town into a food hub and revitalized their whole economy (see Creative Clusters post, Sept. 26/09).
The Stop Community Food Centre in Toronto is the most impressive working example I’ve seen lately because it transformed itself from an old charity model food bank into a vibrant, progressive and sustainable hub of food activity. Located in the city’s west end, they have a wide range of programs alongside the usual food bank and drop in meals. In addition to a commercial kitchen for their community kitchens, they have outdoor bake ovens! In the Green Barn, they have a 3,000 foot greenhouse, a sheltered garden, compost facility and education centre. Their after-school program gives kids a chance to grow and cook their own food. The Food for Change dinner series provides important training for volunteers in a professional kitchen environment under the watchful eye of Chef Chris Brown.
Local Food First in Vancouver has envisioned the New City Market. All they need now is money and a location to fall from the sky. Come to think of it, some space may have just come available. The Vancouver Park Board recently cut two beloved local attractions from their budget. Perhaps we could grow some tomatoes, peppers and cukes amid the exotic tropicals at the Bloedel Conservatory. I’m sure Charlie, the charismatic cockatoo wouldn’t mind. And with the farm animals already in place at the Stanley Park Children’s Farmyard, why not give them a real working farm to live on? And a farmers’ market to boot.