Pan-Cape Breton Food Hub coordinator Alicia Lake and the Food Hub’s chair, Inverness Municipal Councillor Jim Mustard, appeared at last week’s regular monthly meeting of Port Hawkesbury Town Council to request a contribution of $2,000 from the town for the island-wide initiative.

PORT HAWKESBURY: Officials with an island-wide food production and distribution network returned to the town council table last week, thanking Port Hawkesbury officials for providing distribution space and discussion for their various ventures while also seeking future financial assistance.

The Pan-Cape Breton Food Hub’s official coordinator, Alicia Lake, joined the project’s chair and Inverness Municipal Councillor Jim Mustard on April 4 to address the latest regular monthly meeting of Port Hawkesbury Town Council. This meeting saw Lake and Mustard express their gratitude for the use of a refrigerator and freezer unit from the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre that allowed them to set up a pick-up/drop-off point in 2016.

“That was definitely a very much-appreciated contribution last year,” said Lake, who told Deputy Mayor Trevor Boudreau that the response from producers and consumers alike has been “way, way greater” than organizers expected at the launch of their two-year pilot project in 2015.

“With our consumers, there’s this new term called ‘hubbing it’ that I accidentally overheard the other day. I heard this conversation and one person was saying, ‘Yeah, I’ve been hubbing it for awhile’… We’re calling them our ‘hubbers.’”

Mustard also confirmed that the Food Hub’s organizers have begun discussions with Port Hawkesbury municipal solicitor Larry Evans, a long-time member of the Port Hawkesbury Food Bank’s board of directors, to investigate the development of land trusts and land banks to ensure that Cape Breton’s food producers have enough agricultural space at their disposal.

“If it’s agricultural land, you put it in a trust so that it stays in the farming community, but it’s managed,” Mustard explained.

“In a land bank, the actual municipality sometimes has land in surplus and they’re putting it up for a tax sale – we’re indentifying this land and putting an actual valuation on it before it comes back to the community.”

While the Food Hub’s current activities include the solicitation of $7,500 from four of its five member municipalities, Lake pointed out that the organization is only seeking $2,000 from the Town of Port Hawkesbury, as it feels that this amount is “more appropriate” given the town’s population. Mustard noted that the Food Hub is also seeking a further $100,000 from the provincial government.

In the meantime, the network is hoping to expand on its current roster of 125 consumer members, including individuals, groups and businesses including restaurants, while building on the 30 food producers currently participating in the Food Hub.

“When we started there were 23 [producers], we’re now up to 30, but we want to see hundreds,” Mustard declared.

Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton told Lake and Mustard that town council would consider their financial request as budget deliberations begin for the 2017-18 fiscal year.