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Food bank gearing up to become community hub

Posted on December 15, 2020 by 40 Mile Commentator

By Mo Cranker

Alta. Newspaper Group
It’s going to be a new year, and just about a new everything for the Medicine Hat and District Food Bank.
The organization has until the end of May to pack its bags and move out of its current location on S. Railway Street, and to move into its new home on Maple Avenue.
The organization will shift its name to the Medicine Hat Food and Wellness Hub, with the food bank being one piece of a larger community space.
“We’re hoping that most of it will be ready to go for the end of May,” said executive director Celina Symmonds. “With construction and COVID, you never know if things will get delayed, but we need to be operational by that time at the very least.”
The Food and Wellness Hub is moving into the old fire station and a lot of work needs to be done to bring the project to life, says Symmonds.
The hub will keep three of the four fire truck doors, knocking down one to create a front lobby and welcoming area. Once inside, a pay-what-you-can cafe and children’s area will be directly on the right. Also near the entrance will be the food bank pantry.
Two of the first things to be installed at the space will be large, industrial fridge and freezer spaces. Multiple kitchen spaces will be built with the goal of teaching people everyday skills.
“We’re going to have an industrial level kitchen, something like you’d see in a restaurant,” she said. “Then we’ll have four teaching kitchens for different classes and programs.
“Want want to show people how to cook and to maybe give them things they don’t have like freezers and crock pots.
“We want to move away from just being a food bank, and to make it just part of what we do.”
Symmonds says the food bank portion of the hub will look to put more of a focus on fresh foods.
“Things like meat, fresh produce and bread are expensive,” she said. “If we can offer those to people, then they can grab the non-perishable stuff for cheap at the store.
“What we’re working toward is food sustainability and the items we want to offer will reflect that.”
Behind the building is where the hub’s garden will live, and Symmonds hopes there is a space for people to hang out when it’s nice out.
The last phase of the project, or ‘Phase 40’ as Symmonds jokes, is a hanging greenhouse at the back of the building. It will eventually be set up in the large staircase firefighters used to train.
“There’s no timetable for the green house, but it’s something I want to make happen,” she said.
A patio at the front of the building is also on the list of things to do, Symmonds says.
“We can open up this big fire door and have a beautiful indoor and outdoor community space.”
Symmonds added that the location of the new hub couldn’t be better.
“We always stick food banks in the back of our communities, and we put them where no one sees them,” she said. “I love that our food and wellness hub will be front-and-centre in our community.
“We just want everyone in the community, no matter who you are or what your situation is, to know that you are welcome here.”

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