TILLSONBURG – The South Central Ontario Region (SCOR) Food Hub is seeking farmers and food producers who are interested in being part of the SCOR Food Hub project. The demand for Ontario food has never been stronger, with consumers applying pressure on retail, institutional, and foodservice operators to have an increase of local and regional options available. In order to meet this demand at a competitive price, the SCOR Food Hub project is working to establish efficient and cost-effective ways of bringing more of Ontario’s diverse, high-quality products to these markets.
“The original strategic plan for SCOR identified Accessing the Marketplace as the top priority for local producers,” says Art Lawson, General Manager of the SCOR Economic Development Corporation. “Continued growth and development of the region’s strong agricultural sector through new market opportunities and adding value to regional products remains a top priority.”
While there has been a significant increase in the amount of local food being sold directly to consumers, the institutional market has been much more difficult to access. According to the research conducted by Dr. John Kelly, we have identified market potential for local food procurement by the Broader Public Sector to be in excess of $100 Million per annum. This includes hospitals, long term care facilities, universities, schools, and correctional facilities.
Individual producers may have difficulty supplying large contracts, and navigating logistics and distribution barriers. Regional aggregators, often referred to as ‘Food Hubs” are a viable option for providing efficient local and regional value chain linkages to small and medium producers and processors. Given market trends, these services are instrumental in getting smaller enterprises access to mainstream foodservice and retail markets.
According to Bernia Wheaton, the Food Hub Project Manager, “We are now at a point where we would like to identify growers who are interested in supplying the SCOR Food Hub with locally grown product. This includes fruits, vegetables, meat fish and poultry, dairy and egg products, prepared foods, non-alcoholic beverages, and value added products suitable for institutional consumers.”
Once producers have been identified and a software system has been populated with available products, we can begin to respond to food procurement demands.
There is a significant opportunity to supply the local health care market with locally grown food. As the Material Management Analyst with MEALsource, Wendy Smith has indicated that, “As two of our current contract suppliers are located in Woodstock and London, the concept of well-functioning food hubs would certainly strengthen our ability to demand Ontario food where available. Streamlining logistics would battle what we are often told is the main barrier to providing fresh Ontario product to our membership. MEALsource and its membership are very excited to welcome the new business model into our process for healthcare procurement in Ontario.”
Anyone interested in supplying product or learning more about the opportunity should contact Bernia Wheaton, the Food Hub Project Manager at 226-921-5576 or email email@example.com or contact Art Lawson at (519) 842-6333.
Investment in this project is provided by the Greenbelt Fund
Source: Invest Middlesex