“A value-added product for the community”: Cape Breton Food Hub opens retail store in Bras d’Or

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BRAS D’OR – A new store is hoping to make it easier for you to fill your plate with local produce.

The Pan Cape Breton Food Hub Co-operative, which has been operating as an online marketplace for about six years now, has now opened a retail store in Bras d’Or.

Alicia Lake, director of the Pan Cape Breton Food Hub, shows off a recipe card for one of the hub’s take-out meal kits. JESSICA SMITH / CAP-BRETON POST

“We really aim to make it easier for anyone who wants to be able to source local food,” said Alicia Lake, Executive Director of the Food Hub, at the store’s opening on Saturday.

“I think (the online market) is really good for a bunch of people, but we’ve always realized there’s also a need for a physical retail store for people who want to come in and actually watch their own. vegetables and choose things like that. “

YEARS OF MANUFACTURING

The Food Hub works with more than 50 local farms and food producers to provide a distribution link between producers and consumers with the goal of creating a more sustainable community food system.

The Food Hub's goal is to create a more sustainable food system in Cape Breton by increasing access to locally produced food.  JESSICA SMITH / CAP-BRETON POST
The Food Hub’s goal is to create a more sustainable food system in Cape Breton by increasing access to locally produced food. JESSICA SMITH / CAP-BRETON POST

Customers can purchase children’s meals as well as individual products from local producers online and in-store. The Food Hub now also offers a full-size kitchen for rent behind the store.

“When we talk about eating locally, we are talking about immediately reducing the carbon footprint of shipping food here, which is huge,” Lake said. “But we also support small farmers who use more environmentally sustainable practices. “

She said many of the Food Hub growers use organic and chemical-free practices as well as compostable containers for microgreens.

Lake said planning for the Food Hub’s physical store has been going on for as long as the operation is underway.

“So it’s really nice to see this dream come true and to see so many people interested in buying local produce in so many different ways,” said Lake.

A NEW LOCAL STOP

“I think it’s a value-added product for the community,” said Shaun O’Neill of Ben Eoin, who was visiting the store on the day it opened. “I think it will be good for the community to be able to have a place where farmers can come and store their produce, and then we can come and shop as we please.”

Katie MacLeod, left, and Joel Inglis, right, look at a product in one of the Food Hub store's refrigerators on the day it opens.  JESSICA SMITH / CAP-BRETON POST
Katie MacLeod, left, and Joel Inglis, right, look at a product in one of the Food Hub store’s refrigerators on the day it opens. JESSICA SMITH / CAP-BRETON POST

O’Neill said he believed the pandemic caused people to miss local stores like the Food Hub.

“I honestly think people want to go out more and want to come back to… fresh produce, instead of shipping and buying it. I think that’s the only thing, during the pandemic, that we learned. We have learned to slow down and take advantage of what we have.

Varieties of jams from local producers can be found on the shelves of the Pan Cape Breton Food Hub Co-op, which has now opened a physical store in Bras d'Or.  JESSICA SMITH / CAP-BRETON POST
Varieties of jams from local producers can be found on the shelves of the Pan Cape Breton Food Hub Co-op, which has now opened a physical store in Bras d’Or. JESSICA SMITH / CAP-BRETON POST

Joel Inglis, from Sydney, was also in the store on the day it opened and said he appreciated having the opportunity to purchase individual products locally.

“Oh, that’s awesome,” Inglis said. “We’re members of the Food Hub, so we’ve been buying Food Hub products online for years, and it’s really interesting to see it all in person. “

Inglis said he believes the pandemic has increased interest in sourcing food locally and regional food independence because of the many unique supply chain issues it has created.

“If it’s really hard to get things shipped from afar… well, being a little more resilient to local food is going to help us in the long run, and it’s really, really nice to be able to support them. local businesses. “

CROSSING THE PANDEMIC

Ben Eoin's Shaun O'Neill visits the Food Hub store on the day it opens.  He thinks the store is a great addition to local Cape Breton food distributors.  JESSICA SMITH / CAP-BRETON POST
Ben Eoin’s Shaun O’Neill visits the Food Hub store on the day it opens. He thinks the store is a great addition to local Cape Breton food distributors. JESSICA SMITH / CAP-BRETON POST

Katie MacLeod, who sits on the Food Hub board of directors, said she noticed an increase in purchases from the Food Hub during the pandemic.

“We saw a lot of adoption, locally, and an interest in local food because people saw there were like beef shortages due to COVID outbreaks at processing plants in Alberta, for example. MacLeod said.

“So we saw people buying more local meat because they saw that these supply chains could be disrupted. So it’s really exciting that we’ve been able to get through the pandemic, even though we’ve had a lot of delays, and that we have this grand opening today. ”

Organic garlic sits on a shelf at the Food Hub store on the day it opens.  JESSICA SMITH / CAP-BRETON POST
Organic garlic sits on a shelf at the Food Hub store on the day it opens. JESSICA SMITH / CAP-BRETON POST

MacLeod said it was a “multi-year” process to find a building that would work for the Food Hub and the funding to support its opening.

“People started coming before we opened today, so they were just pouring in here,” Lake said. “We were really overwhelmed and so excited and really grateful to the community for supporting us, for supporting the farmers, for supporting all the food producers who make this possible.

“I think it really shows that the people of Cape Breton really care about supporting the local economy, by supporting other people who are doing really good things like growing food for people. So it’s really nice to see this local support.

The Pan Cape Breton Food Hub retail store is open Thursday through Sunday and is located at 1415 Hwy. 105 at Bras d’Or.

Jessica Smith is an environment, climate change and natural resources reporter for the Cape Breton Post.

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