The Town of Huntsville is throwing its support behind a new community kitchen. Council signed a bylaw on Thursday to be a co-signer of one of the grant applications Muskoka North Good Food Co-op is applying for to make the kitchen a reality.

Councillor Nancy Alcock says Huntsville’s endorsement strengthens the co-op’s application because it sends the message that the town is endorsing a good economic development project. However, it does put the town at some financial risk. That’s because the total cost of the project is around $200,000, and the grants currently cover $140,000 of that. That leaves around $60,000 left that is the food co-op is responsible for. Because the town signed on as co-applicant for the provincial grant funding, it is exposed to that risk. However, Huntsville staff says it is highly unlikely that the town would ever be on the hook for that money.

Manager of the food co-op, Kelli Ebbs, says the community kitchen will be a rentable space at a user-friendly rate and will provide commercial grade equipment. She says that can be a barrier for people producing food because it can be really expensive and not viable to buy for the use of one producer.

She says the food co-op has noticed a growing need for local commercial food production kitchen.

She says that’s why there aren’t many of them around. Ebbs says the kitchen will primarily be used for business and skills development.

Ebbs says that includes produce, meat, and herbs. And, she says the kitchen can help take it one step further by turning those products into high-level and artisanal value-added merchandise.

Work has already begun to bring the community kitchen to life. Ebbs says a design has been planned out and plumbing is being roughed in. She says the next step is sourcing out equipment and developing a renovation timeline. Ebbs says the kitchen is also part of a bigger expansion, which includes developing a sampling cafe and growing the current market.

The food co-op is a non-profit that began in 2014 to help the community access and market local food. It’s member-owned, but anyone can shop at the market regardless of membership. To find out more about membership, go to the Muskoka North Good Food Co-Op website. The new kitchen will be located in the same area as the market, at 1 Crescent Drive.