September 22, 2017

Food Hub has served as incubator for 16 tenants

Grant Welker
Timothy Murray, the president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern and Neil Rogers, the kitchen operations manager of the Worcester Regional Food Hub on Thursday.

Before the summer of 2016, any entrepreneur in Central Massachusetts looking to start a bakery or other kitchen-based start-up was almost certainly forced to find expensive space on their own.

That's no longer the case.

In little more than a year, the Worcester Regional Food Hub in Shrewsbury has attracted 16 tenants, including Giacomo's Gourmet Granola, now based in Hubbardston, Peg's Preserves in Lancaster and YouthGROW, a Worcester food-based youth development program. Quisha Papla of Framingham is using the Food Hub now to start RealFoodRx, which makes healthy gluten- and dairy-free juices.

The cost of finding a commercial kitchen or building one herself at home would have been prohibitively expensive, Papla said Thursday.

Papla took a quick break from mixing juices as U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, a Worcester Democrat, toured the facility with Timothy Murray, the president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"To be able to afford all this on your own, it's super expensive," McGovern said. "And maybe you'd say you can't do this."

The Food Hub is based at the Worcester County Food Bank, in a small kitchen space that sat underutilized for years. Start-ups working out of the Food Hub didn't have any option like it before, said Steve Fischer, the co-director of the Food Hub and the executive director of the Regional Environmental Council of Central Massachusetts.

"I think we're very satisfied that we have 16 businesses using the space over the past year," he said.

The Food Hub plans a formal marketing plan soon to help spread word of how the facility can help food entrepreneurs. Otherwise, awareness has mostly spread through word-of-mouth, Fischer said. The facility has a capacity to roughly double the number of start-ups it hosts.

The Food Hub also works with at least 20 farms across the area, and places like Carlson Orchards in Harvard and Lanni Orchards in Lunenberg, to get their produce to places like the Worcester Public Schools, College of the Holy Cross and Bay Path College.

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