By Alex Carey
Do the terms “food hub,” “commercial kitchen,” or “business incubator” mean anything to you? The answer is probably not – not yet, that is.
This spring and summer, the Albion Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) plans to open a Food Hub, a kind of indoor farmer’s market equipped with a commercial kitchen for growing professionals in the food industry. Sandra Florence, Food Hub manager at AEDC calls this concept a business incubator.
“We are using the commercial kitchen to be an incubator for other businesses for test runs and see if their product takes off,” Florence said.
Once the commercial kitchen is open and ready to use, Florence and the AEDC will be renting out kitchen space – including stoves, burners, pots, pans, etc. – to any community members with the desire to develop their own products for potential sale at the Food Hub. Renting is also available for one-time users who intend to cook large amounts of food for private use (for example, a graduation party or a wedding). Florence noted that if users intend to sell their products, they need a license from both the Calhoun County Health Department and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“This is very much a community involved project,” said Florence. “The purpose of this all is to create jobs. New businesses need employees. We need to support the community need for healthy food.”
And that is where the Food Hub is important. This permanent, indoor version of a farmer’s market will be a location where farmers can collaborate and put all of their food together in one spot.
Ortonville junior Alice Lalone, who spent last semester as an intern at the AEDC, believes that the incorporation of the new Food Hub is very important for the city of Albion.
“Albion is in a food desert, which means there is not that access [to healthy food],” Lalone said. “We only have one real grocery store in town but we have a KFC, a McDonald’s and an Arby’s, lots of gas stations and lots of dollar stores.”
Lalone explained that with the implementation of the Food Hub, local families and community members will have better access to fresh, healthy food, such as locally grown fruits and vegetables.
The Food Hub will be located at 112 East Erie St. and the commercial kitchen will be located in the rear of the same building. In the summer, the Albion Farmers market will be at its usual location: 211 Market Place in the William Stoffer Plaza.