New space to increase access, provide value-added training, and build collaboration
COURTENAY, 1 August 2023 – The Lush Valley Food Action Society is embarking on a new project to build a certified commercial kitchen in Courtenay’s Tin Town district that will help food entrepreneurs, students, and farmers develop new commercial food products with investment support from Island Coastal Economic Trust’s Capital and Innovation Program.
The Lush Valley Food Action Society has undertaken several initiatives, since its founding in 2000, to support food security in the region. The new food processing facility currently operates as an aggregating and distribution hub for community-based food security, and this new project will add additional, and much-needed, capacity. Through this project, Lush Valley is creating local solutions that were highlighted in a 2021 Comox Valley Regional District-initiated report that underlined a critical need for increased food processing capacity and access to certified kitchen facilities.
“We feel that this project is a logical next step on the path to a larger ‘Regional Food Innovation Hub and will provide invaluable opportunities to teach and learn as we work towards greater community-based food security in our community,” says Maurita Prato, Executive Director, of LUSH Valley Food Action Society.
The new commercial kitchen and training facility will be used to process local fruits and vegetables into a wide range of prepared meals and value-added products, while also serving as an educational space to teach food processing skills. LUSH currently works with 24 farm businesses, all of whom will benefit from this project. Project funds will be used to purchase kitchen equipment, including a food processor, dehydrator, vacuum sealer, ventilation, and freezer. The commercial kitchen will also allow the organization to strengthen social enterprises, including expanding food truck partnerships and catering businesses, and provide a commissary space for The Farmer’s Kitchen (TFK) food truck, on whom LUSH has relied as a valuable fundraising tool since 2020.
“Small-scale farmers and food processors often do not have the financial means and equipment to set up individual commercial kitchens or to purchase specialty equipment to develop new food processing products,” says Maurita. “This new facility will not only help foster innovation through access to this equipment, but also, through our partnership with North Island College, help new and prospective food processing entrepreneurs gain hands-on experience.”
LUSH plans to work with Continuing Education at North Island College to deliver a food processing course, as well as components of a community food systems course which is in development and slated to run as a microcredit course from September through December 2023.
“We are truly proud to partner with one of the region’s lead organizations on promoting food security and agriculture in the Comox Valley,” says Aaron Stone, Chair, Island Coastal Economic Trust. “This new space is critical in helping facilitate the start-up of entrepreneurs and supporting the growth of established businesses. It will also go a long way towards building the resiliency and sustainability of the agri-food sector.”
The Comox Valley Food Processing in Courtenay is supported through the Capital and Innovation Program. The Trust will contribute $50,000 to a total project budget of $205,000. The project will be underway imminently.
Founded by the Province of British Columbia in 2006, the Island Coastal Economic Trust works to build a sustainable and resilient coastal economy in reciprocal relationships with First Nations, municipalities, and regional districts across Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and islands and inlets from the Salish Sea to Cape Caution. Serving over half a million residents, we partner with communities in the development and financing of their economic infrastructure and diversification efforts through our unique structure that is led by, and accountable to, communities.
Since our inception, Island Coastal Economic Trust has approved more than $59 million to economic development initiatives that have attracted over $323 million in new investment to our region. These investments have created over 2, 910 permanent jobs, and countless positive impacts, across the coast.
Island Coastal Economic Trust acknowledges that we work for communities across the ancestral territories of the Kwak̓wala, Nuučaan̓uɫ, Éy7á7juuthem, Ligwilda’xw, Pəntl’áč, She shashishalhem, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Hul’q’umi’num’, diitiidʔaatx̣, SENĆOŦEN, Lekwungen, and T’Sou-ke speaking peoples.
Island Coastal Economic Trust
Local Food Access Manager
LUSH Valley Food Action Society