Cape Breton food co-op wants municipal money

The Pan Cape Breton Food Hub Co-op, an organization that connects local food producers with consumers, is looking for municipal money to help it expand in its second season.

Group wants municipalities to chip in $5K each as it connects local farmers with customers

Food co-ordinator Alicia Lake hands customer Sebastian Belzile his box of produce. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

An organization that connects local food producers with consumers is looking for money to help it expand.

The Pan Cape Breton Food Hub Co-op is asking the island's five municipalities for $5,000 each to help see it through its second pilot year.

In its first year of operation, more than 25 producers from across the island contributed food that went to more than 50 households and eight restaurants, according to co-ordinator Alicia Lake.

Gross sales were about $45,000, with about $36,000 going directly to the producers. Lake said there's demand for expansion.

"We know that, this year, we have not only more producers that are looking to come on, but everywhere I go there's more consumers," she said. 

Lake said she hopes to at least double, maybe triple the number of customers. She said the money from municipalities would go toward new software for online orders, trucking and equipment costs.

Sustainability and growth

A box of fresh food produced by local farmers awaits pickup at the Pan Cape Breton Food Hub Co-op. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

Inverness County Coun. Jim Mustard, who is also chair of the Pan Cape Breton Food Management committee, said the food hub is also about increasing the amount of land in production and encouraging resettlement.

"We certainly feel as a rural municipality in Inverness County that this is one of those value propositions that gets us in the game," said Mustard. "It gets us in the game of repopulating a landscape that has seen nothing but emptying out over the last two generations."

Mustard said the goal is to see the co-op through a second pilot year, then prepare a five-year plan with the aim of becoming self-sustaining.

Inverness County council has agreed to provide $5,000; Cape Breton regional council has referred the request to its budget committee.

The other three municipalities — the Town of Port Hawkebury and the counties of Richmond and Victoria — have not been officially approached.

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