John Teljeur left and Ken Mott are all business when it comes to the Highlands East Food Hub currently under construction in Wilberforce. The new 1500-square-foot facility which is attached to the Lloyd Watson community centre will be home to the Wilberforce food bank as well as provide space for community kitchen programming and other services.

Food hub nearly complete

By Angelica Ingram

As a structure takes shape on the back corner of the Lloyd Watson Centre it seems like any other construction project.

With four walls a concrete floor and a metal roof the 1500-square-foot addition being built onto the popular hub in Wilberforce blends right into the facility as if it was always there.

However the new building is so much more than walls and a roof. It represents a new chapter for the Wilberforce food bank and for Highlands East.

The much anticipated food hub is on track for a fall opening said John Teljeur and food bank manager Ken Mott last week.

The food bank and food hub now fall under the umbrella of a new organization called the Central Food Network of which Teljeur is the chairman.

Most of the new building is going to be used for food storage comprised of shelves and a walk-in fridge and freezer.

“Really this whole building is about acquiring more food” said Teljeur. “The stuff is out there it’s not a food shortage. It’s getting the capacity to store the stuff with the proper storage.”

In the past the food bank has had to turn away fresh produce or frozen items making selection limited for those relying on the service.

“Right now if we get anything frozen we have to turn it away” said Mott. “In years past John had all kinds of fresh vegetables … there’s no sense in us driving down there to pick them up because basically if we don’t give them out that day” he says before his voice trails off.

Looking forward both Mott and Teljeur are hoping to tap into community gardens more once there is adequate space for fresh produce.

“Basically people can come in here go around and pick the items they are looking for” said Teljeur. “It’s almost going to be like shopping in a sense.”

Aside from storage the facility will be used for community kitchen programs and other food related programs such as Food for Kids said Teljeur.

“Ideally you could have five or six different programs running once or twice a month” he said.

There will also be a small space allocated for Mott’s office where he can keep confidential files and such. Towards the back there will be accessible washrooms for the community.

Work on the building started mid-June and is on schedule for completion in the next month or so.

“At this stage it looks like we’ll do a soft opening at the end of August” said Teljeur. “We’ll then do a grand opening later in September.”

In the meantime the food bank is still operating out of the former Wilberforce library located on Loop Road.

The new facility represents how far the food bank has come in just a few years.

“Three years ago we were operating out of a storage unit” said Mott.

It also represents how much more will be accomplished thanks to proper storage measures eliminating excessive trips to the store said Mott.

Both men are eagerly anticipating the completion of the project and what it will mean for the community.

“Really it’s just a building” said Teljeur. “The magic is what happens inside.”