The future Smiths Falls Food Hub is working towards funding to get the project off the ground.
The Rideau Community Health Services is working collaboratively with different organizations in the area, including The Table Community Food Centre, some Smiths Falls municipal leaders and faith based organizations to create a new community space in Smiths Falls.
The various organizations involved felt there isn't a space for Smiths Falls residents to get together regularly and consistently have access to healthy food supports like prepared meals and supports for other issues the community is facing, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
"What we're trying to do is provide more consistent and reliable programs for folks and as well providing additional supports and services so people can have access to social workers, mental health supports or income support, or just a place to go and have a coffee," said Ramsey Hart, executive director of The Table Community Food Centre and one of the organizers of the Smiths Falls project.
In the past, and more recently throughout the pandemic, there have been different meal programs in town that have come and gone; because of lack of funding or volunteer availability, the programs eventually had to close, according to Hart.
The food hub/centre initiative will be similar to The Table Community Food Centre in Perth. It offers various support programs, including different food based programs that will improve access to healthy food, advocating for individual well-being and advocating for social policies to address food insecurity and poverty, notes The Table's website.
The Table was asked to help facilitate the project in Smiths Falls along with the other local organizations.
The new hub initiative will be first used to improve access to nourishing food for Smiths Falls community members who are living on low incomes and will be a place that provides opportunities to learn, socialize and connect with other services and supports.
According to Hart, the hub initiative will be offering food programs but won't be duplicating the services of the Smiths Falls Community Food bank and the local Salvation Army Food Bank.
The hub will feature a commercial kitchen, dining and multipurpose room; flexible furniture and setup will be used to make the room adaptive to different uses, with private meeting and office space for staff.
"This fall and winter we hope to make more significant and substantial steps," said Hart.
The organizations are at the point where they've arranged some initial funding support but are still looking for additional funding to get the project off the ground. They have also started looking at different spaces where the new hub could go in Smiths Falls.
Programs at the hub would be run by a mix of dedicated staff, partnership with other agencies and volunteers, said Hart.
(Jessica Munro is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)
Jessica Munro, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times