The Silverton Co-work Society will receive funding to create a North Slocan Valley Community Food Centre in Silverton as announced by Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne.
The funding comes through the Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program (CERIP), a provincial program that is investing $30 million in small scale infrastructure projects throughout B.C. to create jobs and support recovery for people and communities affected by COVID-19.
This project will create necessary infrastructure for meaningful and lasting impacts on the well-being of the residents of the North Slocan Valley, including facilities and programs that serve to strengthen community resilience, support a local food economy and create jobs and the potential for future employment.
“The idea of a food hub is one which has been percolating in the community for at least a decade,” said Mick Wilson, local farmer and co-work society vice-president.
“It represents the culmination of years of work by a number of community members dedicated to the idea of food security.”
Just as every community needs its own school, health centre and farmers’ market, so too do communities benefit from having a dedicated food centre that is part of a larger community hub.
When the Healthy Community Society created a food hub committee several years ago to begin work towards creation of such a space, the Silverton Co-work Society was simultaneously working on creating a technology hub for office work, skills training, and meetings.
Because both initiatives are based on providing shared work spaces for community programming and economic development, it seemed natural to pursue this larger vision under a single roof and a single organization.
Aiming to provide facilities and programs that strengthen community resilience and create opportunities in the rural New Denver/Silverton area, three members of the Food Hub Committee joined the board of the Silverton Co-work Society which will oversee the combined vision.
The board is currently comprised of members with interests and perspectives that represent both the co-work space and food centre components: Ellen Kinsel, Paula Shandro, Mick Wilson, Robin McNabb, Miranda Hughes and Morgen Bardati.
The CERIP Community Economic Resilience stream funding for the food centre will be used in conjunction with the funding previously provided from a FLNRORD Rural Community Development grant to create a co-work space in the heritage Silverton General Store building.
According to society co-chair Morgen Bardati, “These two projects are complementary. Aligning them in the same physical space will benefit both and provide unique opportunities for incubating small business with cross pollination of ideas, resources, business training, and collaborative projects.”
In addition to CERIP and FLNRORD grants, financial support has been received from the Slocan Valley Economic Development Partnership and private donations.
The Village of Silverton provided initial funding for the co-work feasibility study.
Overall, the project will cost approximately $1.3 million, including contributions from the building owner.
Plans include renovations to the building, bringing it up to current building code with COVID-19 ventilation requirements, and a space designed to be both functional and flexible.
A commercial kitchen will be available to local food producers, caterers and food-related home based businesses. Space for food storage and a culinary tool library are included in the design as are spaces large enough for educational programs, workshops and potentially an indoor market or pop-up cafe.
A primary objective of the project is job creation and economic support for the North Slocan Valley.
In addition to the jobs created during the construction phase, local value-added food entrepreneurs will have an accessible commercial kitchen and flexible spaces for service and sales to the public.
“The food centre will raise the profile of emerging food issues, respond with community informed solutions, and will be in a position to offer stability and continuity during times of global change and emergency situations such as pandemics or wildfires,” stated Paula Shandro, co-chair. “Our society aims to promote sustainable livelihood, a sharing economy, healthy food habits, and connection to broader food systems and our growing regional network of food hubs.”
The society is currently working with the Hammond family, owners of the General Store building, to finalize designs. Ellen Kinsel, society treasurer, said, “We expect to be ready to go to tender for the construction contract by early summer, but there are still a lot of unknowns as we move through the process.”