Construction is underway to convert the current Masons’ building in Minden into a hub for area food banks and potentially a community space supporting food initiatives.
A partnership between the Masons and the Minden Food Bank has led to the creation of the Haliburton County Food Centre with the short-term plan to raise the Arcadia Lodge to create 2,100 square feet of storage space.
The long-term goal includes further expansion to include office space, a commercial kitchen, an accessible washroom and meeting space to accommodate not only the Minden Food Bank, but any other organizations working to end hunger in the county.
“We’d been talking about revising the food banking system. It wasn’t for lack of effort, it was just no resources,” said Minden Food Bank board member John Teljeur.
Teljeur is also a board member with the Ontario Association of Food Banks and recently toured a food bank in Perth, which helped shape the vision for the food centre.
“We’re going at the same pace that they did [in Perth] and doing the same process that they did,” he said.
The first phase, which is well underway, is a partnership between the food bank and the Masons, which will see the two organizations sharing the space.
Teljeur said the food bank won’t be paying rent, but have entered into a no-interest mortgage with the Masons to have the construction done.
The resulting space will allow the food bank to take in larger volumes of food, including perishables that previously were difficult to manage.
Other food banks and related organizations will be invited to use the space for storage, too.
“The focus really is about Haliburton County. The building will be located [in Minden], but … we can help other organizations like the Cardiff and Wilberforce food banks,” Teljeur said.
“The Arcadia Lodge Masons saw this as an opportunity to help the food bank and its efforts to do more in the area,” Mason representative Lorne Heise said in a press release.
Space has been a major factor in what county food banks could accomplish for a long time.
Teljeur said food banks are often offered fresh food, but if they can’t find space, it has to be refused.
“You’ll get this huge load of goods and we often don’t have the space. We have to be very creative in how we store stuff,” he said.
He cites the example of the milk program run through the OAFB, which would amount to hundreds of bags of milk.
“Right now, most of the food banks [in the county] wouldn’t have the capacity to take that,” he said.
With the new storage facility, those offers can be easily accepted.
The storage facility announcement comes on the heels of the passage of an amendment to the Local Food Act, that will give farmers a 25 per cent tax credit on fruits and vegetables donated to food banks.
In a previous article in the Echo about the amendment, area food bank managers expressed concern there wouldn’t be space to accommodate the vegetables, should the incentive be offered.
It shouldn’t take long for the new basement to be added to the lodge in Minden, however, it will take longer to raise money for the expansion.
Teljeur is hopeful the food bank will be successful in getting an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant, but also hopes the public will help out with donations.
For more information, including photos of the project go to www.mindenfoodbank.org.