Two food hubs are now up and running in NL. After a short pilot program in 2021, the Western NL Food Hub in Corner Brook relaunched late August while the Killick Coast Food Hub in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's launched earlier this summer.
The goal of both initiatives is the same: to connect customers with local food producers.
Shortening supply chains makes sense, from boosting the local economy to lowering transportation emissions, increasing efficiency, and strengthening food security. In NL, where much of the food is shipped in, shorter supply chains are especially important to building a more resilient food system. Unfortunately, the number of NL farms has declined substantially over the years; facilitating the link between customers and producers, and growing the demand for fresh local products, is hoped to reverse that trend.
Both food hubs follow a similar model inspired by the Cape Breton Food Hub in NS. An interactive online platform allows producers to list available products and customers to place weekly orders. Food hub staff collect products from the farms and bring them to a central location for sorting and packing. Customers can then pick up or arrange for delivery of their orders. Producers benefit from a wider market and simplified logistics; the time saved on distribution and marketing allows producers to focus on farming. Customers benefit from the convenience of shopping for fresh local produce from several producers in one place.
Running a food hub does incur costs, of course, including staff time, delivery vehicles, and a physical sorting and pickup (storefront) location. Balancing these costs with fair returns to producers and accessible food prices for customers is a challenge, especially with start up investments. Both food hubs are run as social enterprises - businesses that earn revenue to support a social mission - and currently receive funding from sponsors. As food hubs grow, it’s possible that they will become self-sustaining enterprises, perhaps expanding to include food processing and/or supplying bulk orders for institutional procurement.
Several food hubs work with small to medium sized producers across Atlantic Canada including the Growers Station Food Hub (Charlottetown, PE), Cape Breton Food Hub (Bras D'or, NS), and The Station Food Hub (Newport Station, NS). Will food hubs prove to be a key ingredient toward relocalization of our food system?
Thank you to Richard Butt, Food First NL Program Coordinator (Western NL Food Hub), and Sarah Crocker, Food First NL Program Coordinator, for sharing information and insights.
For more on the Western NL Food Hub relaunch see CBC NL: The Western N.L. Food Hub is back: Local food, online ordering, in-store pickup. (Thumbnail photo credit)