Business & economy, In the community

Advocates cook up plan to transform Ontario kitchen into food hub

The first time Clayton Crowhurst, real estate developer for Northwest Housing Alternatives set eyes on the commercial kitchen at River Bend Place in Ontario, he knew it had to be put to use.
Crowhurst collaborated with Lindsay Grosvenor, Nutrition Oregon Campaign and the Oregon Food Bank to create the Western Treasure Valley Food Systems Partnership.

The goal is to establish a food hub to serve the production needs of local small-scale farmers and the nutrition resource needs of Ontario and the greater Treasure Valley.

The number of small-scale farms, considered as having an income under $250,000, is growing. According to the United States Census of Agriculture, between 2012 and 2019, the number of small farms in the state increased 7.6%.

Small farmers often have fewer production and market resources though. The commercial kitchen at River Bend Place will just be one of the resources available to farmers. The production space will be accompanied by space designated for storage and distribution too.

The food hub will also support local residents who are not farmers.

According to Feeding American, in 2019, 13% of Malheur County residents were facing food insecurity.

That’s approximately 4,230 people. Since the start of the pandemic, that number has only grown.

Ontario only has one public food bank split across two locations. They are only open two days a week for two hours.

“Our population needs more,” said Grosvenor.

Working in tandem with area farmers, the hub will give community members access to local, healthy food. Grosvenor said she hopes the hub will get approved to serve those eligible for assistance through SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

And there is a lot more possibility for what the resource could become.

The group received a two-year, $203,590 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to hire employees, gather feedback from the community and start planning to operate.

Grosvenor has big dreams for the hub. She hopes the resource can also offer food and nutrition education, and community-building programs as well.

The kitchen’s food hub will be a part of a larger campus that will provide affordable housing and health care in a partnership between Northwest Housing Alternatives, Oregon Food Bank, Valley Family Healthcare and others.

Grosvenor said she hopes the kitchen will be in full operation in four to five years.

Contact project coordinator Lindsay Grosvenor to share your input in the planning process at
[email protected]

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