The District of Central Saanich is moving toward making a food hub on the Peninsula a reality, with council approving funding to move to the implementation stage of the project.
At a Jan. 9 meeting, council unanimously approved including $40,000 of COVID restart grant funding in the 2023 budget for the implementation phase, the earmarking of $550,000 in COVID grant money in the 2024 budget as potential seed funding for the proposed hub and directed staff to connect with neighbouring municipalities about the potential for cost-sharing and other partnerships on the project.
At the meeting, council heard the district hired Greenchain Consulting last year to conduct a feasibility study to assess the viability of the shared-use food processing facility, which included meeting and speaking with local food producers and processors.
That study, funded by the province, found there was unquestionably a need for such a facility on the Saanich Peninsula, with Central Saanich alone featuring 28 food processing businesses and 200 farms. The study found a hub would help increase regional food sales by nearly $3 million in just five years and generally contribute to the local food economy, food security, waste reduction, and tourism in the region.
It found the recommended facility size would be in the neighbourhood of 10,000 square feet located near the highway and with room to expand in the future. It would include shared cold storage, a processing kitchen, equipment rental service, online ordering platform, co-packing services, business education services, shared offices and more.
While not included in the recommendations for the facility, the report also indicated there was a strong need for more abattoir capacity in Southern Vancouver Island, leading council to unanimously approve amending the recommendation as originally presented to direct staff to include discussions around possible solutions to that issue in the implementation phase of the food hub project.
Darren Stott, presenting to council on behalf of Greenchain Consulting, said there is still about a year’s worth or work before the food hub could become a reality now that funding for the implementation phase has been established.
That work will focus on refining what the facility would actually look like, what services and features would be included, how involved neighbouring communities will be and, most importantly, where it will be located and who will be tasked with operating it.
Stott said the feasibility study found none of the identified suitable locations were available at the time it was produced, and while there were plenty of businesses and organizations interested in the concept, none were in a position to step up to operate it, hence the recommendation the district itself step up to keep the project moving forward into the implementation phase.
He noted this situation was likely due to the project being in its early stages and the fact potential businesses and organizations which could be involved in establishing the hub were simply tied up with other projects when contacted for the report. He said further engagement with those organizations during the implementation phase would likely address this.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.