COVID-19 caused a delay in plans for a South Okanagan "food hub" in Summerland, but the concept is still in the works with hopes for more funding opportunities and support in 2021.
The proposed hub has been contemplated for several years, with the aim of providing a space that could connect food and agri-tech entrepreneurs to resources, including an active shared production space for wet products like salsas and condiments and a dry space for fruit snacks and other such products.
The space would also be used as a business incubator for new products, all with the aim of facilitating more local food sustainability in the region.
Jane Campardo of Engage Business and People Solutions, who is acting on behalf of the District in exploring the food hub option, presented an update to council Monday, explaining that their plans went nowhere in 2020 due to the pandemic.
"We didn’t have the funding programs to apply to, they were on hold,” Campardo said.
But they have since met with the Ministry of Agriculture in the fall of 2020, who indicated at that time that grant options might be back up and running in the spring of 2021.
"We’re hopeful that there will be another intake [for funding applications] through the Ministry of Agriculture,” Campardo said.
“I’m hopeful that there will be another program to support food hubs at the provincial level."
Currently, they are investigating potential spaces in Summerland to operate the facility, with the hope of securing a location by June 2021, although spaces for lease are currently at a premium.
Campardo said they plan to speak to the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen at an upcoming meeting, with the aim of earning their financial support, because some grants, especially federal ones, require local and regional funding before they will get on board.
While the project has faced delays, Campardo said the interest in the South Okanagan community is still high for the facility.
“There’s definitely some that would be ready to start tomorrow if we had the space tomorrow,” she said.
“To date, we definitely have some businesses that have said if you open, yes I will be a user of the hub."