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The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts

June 15, 2017 - Chamber Exchange Newspaper - Worcester Regional Food Hub
New truck, grant feeds the future at Food Hub

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There's a lot of fresh support feeding the Worcester Food Hub, now in its second year of operation.

A new $500,000 grant from the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts will enable the Food Hub to collect local produce from area farms and then distribute it in local schools. To help with that distribution, a new 16-foot refrigerator truck was purchased by the Worcester County Food Bank.

Health Foundation CEO Janice B. Yost helped unveil the truck and grant in a ceremony held at North High School in Worcester on May 8. She says the truck will help extend the reach of the Food Hub's purposes while also boosting the Food Bank's capacity to distribute healthy foods to its broad network of hunger relief partners.

Worcester County Food Bank Executive Director Jean G. McMurray says her organization is pleased to be a continued partner in the Food Hub's implementation phase by hosting the program for the second year at its headquarters on Route 9 at the Worcester/Shrewsbury line. The Food Hub business is housed in the Bank's licensed commercial kitchen, and its separate aggregation and distribution of local fruits and vegetables division operates out of the warehouse there.

“We are excited about the Food Hub's potential for growth in the number of food entrepreneurs using the kitchen and our local farmers supplying fresh produce as well as the number of institutions purchasing the produce,” says McMurray.

Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Timothy P. Murray says Worcester County has more farms than any other county in Massachusetts. “Linking these farms with consumers is critical, and with 25,000 students and counting, there's no bigger consumer than Worcester Public Schools,” adds Murray.

Murray believes that the Chamber's Food Hub incubator and commercial kitchen will also help to further develop the city's food culture and recipes with 55 new restaurant licenses awarded in the past 18 months.

Additionally, Murray acknowledges the need for more branding and marketing, as evidenced by the new Worcester Food Hub logo that was created and designed by Assumption College student Emily Simpson.

At the event, the very first delivery inside the truck was apples grown by Carlson Orchards in Harvard intended for Worcester Public Schools students. Carlson Orchards co-owner Frank Carlson says his farm has always supported the farm-to-school project, but never had the means to do store door deliveries until now.

The program’s Hub for Aggregation, Marketing, and Distribution segment provides greater market opportunities for local farms by offering logistical support to help increase the produce purchased by local institutions, as well as the amount of affordable, local, healthy food available in under-served communities.

The aggregation portion of the Food Hub program currently supports about a dozen local small to mid-size farms.

New kitchen manager hired at warehouse facility

The Worcester Regional Food Hub announced in March the hiring of Worcester native Neil Rogers as its new kitchen operations manager.

A Shrewsbury native, Rogers brings with himmore than 20 years of experience in restaurants in New England. Most recently, Neil served as the executive chef de cuisine for Niche Hospitality Group in Central Massachusetts. Prior to that role, Rogers held positions as executive chef for Tomasso Trattoria and Enoteca/Panzano Market in Southborough; regional manager for Texas-based Love Shack celebrity restaurant group; and as chef de cuisine for Max’s Oyster Bar/Trumbull Kitchen/ Max’s Tavern in Hartford, Conn. and Springfield. He was chosen as one of the Chamber’s 2016-17 Leadership Worcester program participants. He also was honored as Worcester’s Best Chef by Foodies of New England in 2014, and as a 40 Under 40 recipient by the Worcester Biz Journal in 2015.

Rogers will manage day-to-day operations of the Commercial Kitchen Incubator program of the Worcester Regional Food Hub. Neil will be the primary point of contact for tenants, taking them from an intake process through to producing their food products in a licensed commercial kitchen.

Additionally, Rogers will provide onsite assistance to support the development of food businesses by farmers, caterers, and other food entrepreneurs looking to start or grow an existing enterprise.

For more info, call Rogers at 508-842-3663, ext 242. 
  
                                
                                

From left to right: Steve Fischer, executive director of the Regional Environmental Council; Frank Carlson, Carlson Farms; Tim Murray, president and CEO of the WRCC; Jan Yost; CEO of The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts; Maureen Binienda, superintendent of Worcester Public Schools; Jean McMurray, executive director of the Worcester County Food Bank; Donna Lombardi, director of School Nutrition at Worcester Public Schools. Picture shot at North High School.

 Most of the reporting, writing, editing and design of this publication was done by Tim Kane.